The race for the 10th Senatorial District keeps getting uglier with campaign materials that make reference to lynchings, fried chicken and a jolly lawmaker who is more like Santa Claus than a man with a cause.
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) is taking on embattled state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) in today’s Sept. 13 Democratic primary. She was recently indicted on corruption charges, stemming from an allegedly bogus nonprofit group that she funded with taxpayer money.
Last week, the Sanders camp blamed Huntley’s people for spreading rumors that he was somehow responsible for her legal woes. They denied the allegation.
This week a flier was distributed throughout the Rochdale Village co-op complex, written by its second vice president, Joe Evans, who called the state investigation against Huntley a “political hanging” by a “political lynch mob.” Evans could not be reached for comment, but Huntley’s campaign spokesman, Michael Roberts, weighed in on the flier.
“We never authorized anything of that sort,” he said. “Mr. Evans is a private citizen, and he is entitled to his opinion. He can do what he wants. You can say it has objectionable, inflammatory language attached to it, but we can’t stop him from putting it out there. We are not going to get involved in disavowing it. That is above and beyond the scope of what we are doing.”
Sanders’ campaign manager, Steve Behar, also said the opposition was handing out fliers that read, “We deserve more than free concerts and fried chicken,” with Sanders’ face on what appears to be a KFC bucket, and another flier that features the lawmaker in a Santa hat and reads “Sanders Claus — He, too, comes around once a year (with the exception of an election year).”
“It just goes to show the desperation of Senator Huntley’s campaign,” Behar said. “They feel their character is being questioned, so they are questioning the character of their opponent.”
While it is true that Sanders sponsors free concerts in the park, where free food is available and he dresses up like Santa Claus at Christmas and distributes toys to needy children, that is no reason to lampoon the lawmaker, the Sanders camp said. In fact they believe he should be praised for giving back to the community.
“We are shocked that they would do something like this,” Behar said. “We should be at a point now where we are trying to move beyond the historical issues of years past.”
Leroy Gadsden, the president of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP, said while the organization is prohibited from endorsing candidates, he believes Huntley is innocent until proven guilty. But Gadsden also decried the language used in the racially heated ads, stating that it is wrong to use such wording and symbolism, no matter who is responsible for distributed them.
“I think things are getting nasty on both sides,” Gadsden said, “but ultimately it will be up to the voters to make up their minds.”
Roberts denied that Huntley was behind the fried chicken and Santa fliers. “Our campaign has nothing to do with it,” he said. “We are focused on Senator Huntley’s record. She has an impeccable record. We don’t need to get into negative campaigning.”