There’s a new source of controversy in the contentious 49th Ward aldermanic election.

Several Rogers Park residents are upset at aldermanic candidate Don Gordon for handing out bananas to commuters at el stations. They think Gordon, who’s challenging alderman Joe Moore in the April 17 runoff, is sending a not-so-subliminal message designed to play on the “Juneway Jungle” nickname folks use for Juneway Terrace, the economically depressed and racially mixed community just north of Howard Street.

“I was very offended–I think it’s a terribly racist joke,” says Brenda Dunkins, who lives north of Howard. “I told Don Gordon this too when I saw him. I told he had a lot of nerve handing out these bananas.”

According to Gordon, Dunkins and others are making a big deal out of nothing. He says he decided to hand out bananas as a healthy alternative to the doughnuts that Moore traditionally passes out to election judges on election day. “Yes, right, I’m a longtime racist–my parents are racists,” says Gordon, speaking sarcastically. “Give me a break. This just shows you how desperate the Moore campaign is that they’re making an issue out of this.” (For the record, Dunkins, who says she plans to vote for Moore, supported Jim Ginderske in the February 27 election.)

As Gordon points out, he gives voters a plastic bag filled with a banana, two Hershey’s Kisses, and a flyer that reads, “Go bananas for Don Gordon, kiss your current alderman good-bye.”

Gordon says that some of his advisers recommended that he stop handing out bananas after they heard complaints from residents. “I said, ‘I’m not going to let Moore spin this against us,'” says Gordon. “We did this with the best intentions. I love bananas–they’re full of potassium. They taste delicious and they’re good for you. I’ve been eating bananas all of my life. Bananas are yellow and that’s the color of our campaign. So I’m sticking with this.”