In an unusual show of unity, four of the five Democratic candidates fighting for the District 19 City Council seat came together Tuesday to denounce political mailers they say are making false allegations about them.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) organized the press conference outside the Bayside Long Island Rail Road station after constituents called his office to complain about “the mudslinging fliers.”
Candidates singled out for abuse in five mailers include Paul Graziano, Austin Shafran and Chrissy Voskerichian. Also lending his support to them was John Duane, another candidate, who was not smeared by the fliers.
Some believe Duane, who has led a low-key campaign, was not singled out to make it appear the attacks were random. The mailers were funded by Jobs for New York, an arm of real estate developers who have backed and helped fund the fifth candidate, Paul Vallone.
Vallone has also been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, among others.
The fliers attempt to link Shafran with state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), who was charged earlier this year with bribery. Shafran says his support for Smith dates to three years ago.
Voskerichian served as chief of staff for outgoing Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). He was charged with wrongdoing along with Smith and also awaits trial. A flier calls her the captain of Halloran’s “sinking, corrupt ship.”
Graziano is quoted from his 2001 run for City Council as saying his campaign strategy was to “take advantage of racial strife in my community.” He indicated Tuesday that the charges were “outrageous” and suggested Vallone “come out and say it’s wrong.”
Although not part of the smear campaign, Duane said he joined the others as an issue of principle. “I ask Vallone to stop this,” Duane said. “He should renounce Jobs for New York and tell them to get out of this race.”
Shafran said the fliers are an attempt of “big money trying to take over the neighborhood. We can’t be bought,” he noted, adding, “anyone who benefits [from the fliers] is just as bad as those behind them.”
Voskerichian said the political action group has made more than $113,000 in expenditures to support Vallone’s campaign. “Paul Vallone should be ashamed of the actions that Jobs for New York has taken on his behalf, but clearly he has no shame,” she said.
Avella, who recently withdrew from the borough president race, echoed the candidates’ comments, adding “real estate interests want to control the City Council” so they can push their development projects and that the campaign should focus on issues, not negativity.
Contacted later, Vallone’s spokesman, Austin Finan, said he had not been invited to the press conference, adding: “By law, candidates have no control over outside spending, nor can they coordinate with expenditure efforts. Those opponents of Paul Vallone who repeatedly lie about these facts continue to demonstrate they lack the honesty and integrity to represent Northeast Queens in the City Council.”
Jobs for New York could not be reached.