A campaign to discredit Republican City Council candidate Dan Halloran by a Queens weekly may have backfired.
“I am hoping people will see it for what it is,” said Halloran, who is running to replace Democratic Councilman Tony Avella in the 19th District. Avella is not seeking re-election. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the primary.
A front page story in the Sept. 17 edition of the Queens Tribune depicts Halloran as a “Pagan Lord.” His photo, showing him dressed in a tunic, is positioned next to a preppy-looking, smiling Kevin Kim, labeled the “Democratic Victor.”
The Tribune’s sister company, Multi-Media Corp., is representing Kim in his campaign and has already raked in more than $80,000 from the candidate, according to the city Campaign Finance Board’s list of Kim’s expenditures.
Those expenses include campaign mailings, printing, campaign literature, professional services and consulting.
Michael Nussbaum, president of Multi-Media, is also associate publisher and executive vice president of the Queens Tribune. In a 2003 column, Michael Schenkler, the Tribune’s publisher and editor-in-chief, bragged that his office is next to that of his friend, Michael Nussbaum.
The newspaper was founded by Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens), who Kim worked for immediately before running for office.
In the story, Halloran, an attorney from Whitestone, is described as the “first atheling,” or prince of Normandy, a leader in a branch of the Theod faith, a pre-Christian heathen religion.
The candidate got involved with the group after the death of his father, when a relative suggested he might find some comfort from it. He was raised a Catholic.
Halloran does not believe a candidate’s religion is relevant in politics. He has been supported on that point by the Queens Republican organization, led by Chairman Phil Ragusa, which was out in force Saturday at Halloran’s new campaign office on Bell Boulevard in Bayside.
He has been endorsed by the Republican, Independence, Libertarian and Conservative parties.
The 19th District, which includes College Point, part of Flushing, Bayside, Auburndale, Little Neck, Douglaston, Malba and Bay Terrace, voted Republican until Mike Abel was term-limited out of office and replaced by Avella in 2001. Abel served as councilman for 10 years.
Halloran’s spokesman, Steven Stites, said the district is filled with conservative Democrats who have voted for veteran state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) for the past 37 years. Stites believes that pattern will help his candidate, who has been endorsed by Padavan.
In addition, Stites thinks Kim has a low name recognition among voters and points to Halloran’s long ties to the community.
Halloran says he is devoted to public service, as is his family. His grandfather was a senior homicide detective at the NYPD for 40 years. His father was a deputy commissioner at several city agencies for 30 years, his uncle was a police officer and his two brothers are city firemen.
The Halloran name is well-known in Flushing, part of the area he wants to represent. The candidate’s family ran a real estate business there for over 80 years. Halloran grew up in Flushing, 15 blocks away from his current Whitestone home, and married his childhood sweetheart from St. Andrew Avellino Church four years ago.
He is a graduate of Fordham University and received his law degree from St. John’s University and advanced L.L.M. from SUNY Buffalo.
Halloran believes he’s the best candidate for the job. “I’m offering solutions and bring the best package to City Hall: experience and an understanding of the community. That gives me an advantage,” he said.
“District residents need someone who knows what they’re going through and to lead us in these difficult economic times. We’ve seen what the status quo means for our neighborhoods,” Halloran added.“It means being overtaxed but underserved.It means big developers getting a free pass while small businesses suffer.It means more crime on our streets and more corruption in the halls of our government.”
Although Kim has raised $306,566, which is more than any of the other Democratic hopefuls he beat in the primary, he only has $17,220 left until Election Day. He opted out of city matching funds, he says, as a practical matter, because he entered the race late and had to raise as much money as he could against the Queens Democratic Party-endorsed candidate, Jerry Iannece, and a well-known political name, Paul Vallone.
According to records for the last filing date, Halloran has raised $16,340 and has $6,529 left to spend. He will also get full matching funds since he opted into the program. “I have raised $20,000 and will get plenty back,” Halloran said, noting that he received a lot of financial support last week, based somewhat on anger over the printed attack.
The Republican added he has heard from many people who said they were offended by the Tribune’s tactic. “We should be talking about issues,” Halloran said. “Our nation was founded on religious freedom in America. It shouldn’t be part of the political process.”
He finds the attack particularly repugnant, “especially here in Flushing, the home of the Remonstrance,” the document that gave birth to religious freedom in America. “I’m a man of faith.”
In a perverse way, the attack on Halloran has energized his campaign. “I absolutely believe I’ll win. I am 100 percent committed to the campaign and I won’t be affected by cheap shots,” he said.
Kim, reached on Tuesday, said he was not aware that the Tribune was going to go after Halloran. “I was focused on the race,” Kim said.
However, he does not believe religion should be brought into political races. “I won’t comment on anyone’s beliefs,” Kim added.
Schenkler, contacted by phone on Wednesday, defended the Tribune’s action. “We had a good story and had to play it,” Schenkler said. “I would do it all over again.”
Although the weekly did not disclose in its story the newspaper’s financial connection to Kim, Schenkler said he had mentioned it in his column in the past. “The story merited printing; it was a valid story,” he said. “We make no secret that we do business with candidates and although we endorsed Kim, the lion’s share of candidates we represent do not get our support.”
He believes it’s the job of media to let the public know as much about the candidate as they can. Though Schenkler does not know what religion Kim is affiliated with, in Halloran’s case, “It’s certainly relevant when one heads a religion,” the publisher said. “People have a right to know what Halloran lives by.”