State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) awoke Tuesday morning to find a gorgeous bunch of roses at her doorstep, but upon closer inspection she was mortified to discover a gold ribbon wrapped around them with the words “rest in peace.”
“Those of you who know me, know that I would have to take this seriously, otherwise you would not be here,” Huntley said at a press conference outside her home on Wednesday. “I am not a person who complains about anything, what people say to me, what they do to me, I don’t do that … but enough is enough.”
Huntley claims she has been harassed since June, but was vague about the details. She only said that she had received one threatening phone call and others where the caller just hung up. At first, she thought if she ignored the problem, it would eventually go away, but after this latest attempt she felt compelled to speak out as did other area leaders and officials.
“Freedom of speech, civil debates are the foundation of democracy,” said state Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn). “Open debate is the core democratic value that requires tolerance, but most of all, respect. Any anonymous threats, malicious attacks have no place in changing policies.”
In addition to Sampson, Huntley was joined by a number of lawmakers from Queens and beyond, including Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
Krueger was adamant that threats against politicians cannot become a sign of the times. “For democracy to survive, for this great country to survive, we all have to remember that the debates are civil,” she said. “The debates do not get to the point of threatening someone’s health or welfare.”
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) called Huntley his “partner in government” and was unwavering in his condemnation of the threats against her, saying that they are “totally unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.”
“What you see here today — NAACP, clergy, civic, community folks — is just the beginning of a movement that is going to turn what you thought was going to turn her away into the most respected, admired, individual who will probably gain more votes than she has ever gotten before.”
Huntley will face challenger Lynn Nunes in the upcoming Democratic primary. Nunes came within a few votes of toppling City Councilman Tom White Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) last year and has raised considerably more than Huntley in this campaign.
“I think that appropriate legal action needs to be taken to find the person or persons responsible and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Nunes told the Chronicle on Wednesday. “No one in my campaign could ever perpetrate such an act. I would not tolerate it.”
Huntley vowed to remain unwavering in her commitment to the community and moving ahead with her campaign.
“I want whoever is sending the message to me to remember one thing — they only made me stronger,” she said. “I am going to run this race. I am going to win this race. I am not going to worry about anyone. I don’t care. I will not be stopped.”