Grand Forks mayoral candidate and bar under investigation for beer-for-votes promotion

Categories: Beer, Politics
Grandstrand's participation in a bar's beer-for-votes promotion is under investigation.
Grand Forks is a college town, and what do you offer when you want college students to do something for you? Beer, of course!

But when you're running for mayor, you can't offer beer to students in exchange for their vote. That's illegal. And today, the Grand Forks Herald reports that Gilly's Bar and mayoral candidate Tyrone Grandstrand are being investigated by the NoDak Bureau of Criminal Investigation for a possibly unlawful beer-for-votes promotion.

Gilly's is located in downtown Grand Forks and is a popular young adult destination. During absentee voting for the mayoral race last Friday, the bar offered a free drink to anyone wearing an "I Voted" sticker. That would be alright if Gilly's was unaligned, but the bar's owner is a "casual friend" of Grandstrand's and some believe Grandstrand was anything but a casual observer.

County Auditor Debbie Nelson said Grandstrand personally brought "I Voted" stickers to the county office before last Friday's vote. She said her office typically wouldn't hand out those stickers during absentee balloting.
Gilly's owner says he just wanted to encourage Grand Forks students to vote.

Grandstrand, who was University of North Dakota student body president from 2008 to 2010 and now represents the UND areas on the Grand Forks City Council, also admits he went to numerous frats and sororities days before absentee voting and encouraged students to take Gilly's-supplied buses to the polling station, but denies he told students what to do when casting their ballots.

Likewise, Gilly's owner Josh Gilleland denies that the promotion was designed to drum up votes for his friend, who is competing for mayor against incumbent Mike Brown.

Citing the fact that he's reliant on getting a liquor license from the city, Gilleland said he's "not going to do anything close to illegal or unethical."

"No way I'm going to say, 'Vote for Grandstrand and we'll give you a free drink,'" Gilleland said.

But the NoDak BCI is suspicious there's more to the story and has launched an investigation. Peter Welte, Grand Forks County attorney, told the Herald he won't comment on specifics until investigators have gathered more information.

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