State Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, and four of the Democratic candidates running for Councilman Dan Halloran’s seat gathered in Bayside Tuesday to denounce campaign hit pieces that have been sent out to northeast Queens residents.
The senator joined City Council contenders John Duane, Chrissy Voskerichian, Austin Shafran and Paul Graziano in front of Bayside’s Long Island Rail Road to slam a series of campaign flyers that depicted three of the four candidates in a negative light.
Avella mentioned that the group responsible for the mailers – Jobs for New York – was funded by the Real Estate Board of New York and supported Democrat Paul Vallone in the race for Halloran’s seat.
“There is a fine line between attacking your opponent’s record and mudslinging,” Avella said. “This is defamation of character. I’m ashamed for the Real Estate Board of New York. This is no way to conduct a campaign – by insulting the candidates.”
In a statement, Vallone's campaign responded to criticisms of the mailers.
"By law, candidates have no control over outside spending, nor can they coordinate with expenditure efforts," the statement read. "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."
In one mailer, Graziano is depicted with flames in the background and notes that the candidate had said he would “take advantage of racial strife” in his community during a previous Council bid.
Graziano said the flyer blatantly distorted the positions of candidates in the race.
“It’s pretty outrageous,” he said. “There’s someone absent here today and there’s a reason for that. Paul Vallone can pretend he’s not connected to this, but he’s connected to it.”
Other mailers depict images of Halloran and state Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Jamaica, being arrested in April for their alleged involvement in a scheme to rig the mayoral election by getting Smith on the Republican ballot.
Shafran, a former spokesman for the Senate Democrats, is noted to have defended Smith in 2010, which was three years prior to his arrest.
“The real estate industry should know that our community will not be bought,” he said. “Anyone who benefits from these attacks is just as bad as the people who made the attacks. This shows a lack of integrity to lead this community.”
The mailers also attack Voskerichian, Halloran’s former chief of staff, referring to her as the “captain” of the councilman’s “corrupt sinking ship.”
Voskerichian quit her position at Halloran’s office shortly after his arrest.
“I was saddened by the false attacks on the personal characters of the candidates,” she said. “Outright lies should not be a part of a campaign. Paul Vallone should ask Jobs for New York to stop spending on his behalf.”
Duane, a former state Assemblyman, was not mentioned in the mailers, but he said he joined the other candidates as an “issue of principle.”
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with Paul Vallone and asked him to repudiate what they’ve been doing,” he said. “He has not stepped forward, which is why I’m publically calling for him to do so.”
The Democratic primary for the seat will be held on Sept. 10. The winner will face off against Republican Dennis Saffran in the November general election.