Some Schenectady Democrats irate over mailer attacking GOP
SCHENECTADY A piece of campaign literature that includes misleading statements about some Republican candidates has infuriated some Democrats who helped pay for it.
The piece attacks the Republican candidates for Schenectady City Council. It was sent out less than a week before the election by the Schenectady County Democratic Committee.
Democratic Councilman and candidate Carl Erikson was so incensed by the piece that he canceled his last check for his group’s publishing fund, saying that he refused to help pay for such a piece.
“I contributed money to the pool. And that money paid for this. I refuse,” he said. “I’m livid. The stakes aren’t so high that you need to cheat to win.”
The headline of the piece was, “The Mary McClaine Team: Too Extreme for Schenectady.”
It went on to accuse Joseph Kelleher of being “an active member of the extremist Tea Party and FreedomWorks.”
But its only citation for that is Meetup.com, a general website for thousands of groups.
Kelleher said he had gone on Meetup.com to read about FreedomWorks, but denied joining either group.
“I am not a card-carrying member of any tea party or anything else,” he said.
Erikson, who is running against Kelleher, said even he didn’t think Kelleher was “too extreme for Schenectady.”
“Look, I want to win,” Erikson said. “But he certainly doesn’t sound extreme.”
He added that he and his running mates, Councilwoman Marion Porterfield and candidate John Mootooveren, agreed at the start of the race to avoid negative attacks.
“Some people said, ‘Well, you gotta go a little bit negative.’ We said no,” Erikson said.
He also said he didn’t see the ad before it was printed and mailed this week. But when he saw it, he said he confronted an unnamed county Democratic Committee leader.
“I said, ‘What the hell is this?’ His face turned bright red and he said, ‘It has nothing to do with you,’ ” Erikson recounted.
He said he insisted that it had everything to do with him.
“I’m the candidate! They’re going to think this is my opinion and my character!” he said. “I am absolutely furious.”
Democratic council candidate John Mootooveren said he also didn’t know about the piece in advance.
“I have nothing to do with it,” he said. “I have not seen it.”
He added that he didn’t want to print such pieces. He has repeatedly announced that his campaign will be “only positive.”
The Republicans took heart from the piece, saying that it might mean the Democrats were worried about the race.
“I interpret this as the Democrats are running scared and we have a winning ticket,” said Republican candidate Mary McClaine.
She was mostly upset by the timing.
“They waited until the 11th hour when we can’t respond. This is not a tea party,” she said. “I expect things to get worse. I think you can expect more negative literature this weekend.”
Erikson is worried about that too.
“I hope to God there isn’t another one,” he said. “I hope they wouldn’t be that dumb twice.”
Joseph Lazzari and Kelleher were both attacked in the ad, while McClaine was only referenced once. The attacks against Lazzari were the same as the ones used against him in his two sheriff’s races.
The ad said Lazzari “lied and tried to hide his [disciplinary] record” when he ran for sheriff in 1998, citing a Daily Gazette story.
However, that story described then committee Chairman Chris Gardner’s allegation that Lazzari got a letter of reprimand for using police stationery for politics. Lazzari and the police chief disputed that. And in 2009, when someone leaked Lazzari’s entire disciplinary record to The Daily Gazette, it was revealed that the reprimand was for ordering four shirts and a photo book for DARE without getting permission first.
The most noteworthy items in the disciplinary record were two incidents of using “coarse language” and an incident in which he didn’t move his private car from the parking garage.
Lazzari called the attack ad “lies and innuendo” and said he wasn’t bothered by it.
“I just think it’s immature, insecure and sinister,” he said. “They have no respect for anyone. I feel kind of sorry for them — they’re so low. They’re in my prayers.”
Kelleher was more upset.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “There is absolutely no reason for these smear campaigns and these smear tactics.”
He added that he’d heard from Democrats who were appalled by the literature.
Erikson also has heard from voters. One man called his house to tell him he was disgusted.
“I think it hurt me. I think it will hurt all of us,” Erikson said. “People look at that and say, ‘He’s not who I thought he was.’ ”
He added that he’ll blame the ad if a Republican wins a seat.
Kelleher was able to clear up two mysteries from the attack ad, referring to his years living in Pennsylvania.
He did run for Northampton County executive there four years ago, he said.
But he grew up in Saratoga.
“I’m far from a carpetbagger,” he said.