By Nathan Duke
The race to replace City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) turned nasty in its final week before Election Day as accusations of racism and campaign sign tampering flew from the two candidate’s campaigns.
The campaign has taken its twists and turns ever since Bayside Democrat Kevin Kim, the former deputy director of community affairs for U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), defeated his five opponents in the Sept. 15
Democratic primary and moved ahead to face Republican Dan Halloran, an Auburndale attorney.
Shortly after the primary, a Queens Tribune article detailed Halloran’s participation in a pre-Christian pagan religion. The Queens County Republican party criticized the article and Halloran’s campaign pointed out that the Tribune was founded by Ackerman and that its sister company was involved in Kim’s campaign.
In mid-October, two volunteers for Kim filed complaints with the 109th Precinct that they had been harassed by a group of youths who threw a football at them and referred to Halloran. Kim’s campaign did not go as far to suggest that the youths played any role in Halloran’s campaign.
But the contest became even more heated in its final week after Kim and a group of high-profile Queens Democrats stood in front of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens Monday to denounce a Halloran campaign mailer they contended was racially divisive. On Tuesday, Halloran’s campaign staff held a news conference at which they accused the Kim campaign of tearing down Halloran’s campaign signs in northeast Queens.
Kim was joined by a bevy of Queens Democratic leaders, including state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) as well as state Assembly members Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), to object to the Halloran mailer.
The piece of campaign literature featured a picture of Kim which had been superimposed on a photo of downtown Flushing, which is predominantly Asian. The mailer read, “Will your community be the next one to be hit by overdevelopment? With Kevin Kim in office, it will be.”
Kim and his supporters said they believed the mailer hinted at an underlying message.
“The message ‘Don’t vote for the Asian guy’ will go down in the annals of history as one of the ugliest campaign slogans,” state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “The Republicans have nothing else to offer. So, they should see why they have so few representatives on the City Council.”
But Steven Stites, Halloran’s campaign spokesman, said the mailer’s subject was overdevelopment.
“This is a desperation move,” he said. “He wants to divert the subject because he’s been funded by developers from downtown Flushing.”
In turn, members of Halloran’s campaign accused Kim’s campaign of an “organized effort” to tear down their candidate’s campaign sites in Douglaston and other parts of the district.
Anthony Carollo, a former city police officer who acts as a security consultant to Halloran’s campaign, said a number of Halloran’s campaign signs had been sliced with box cutters last weekend.
“We are demanding to meet with the inspector of the 111th Precinct,” he said. “God forbid a homeowner confronts one of these people with a box cutter. Homeowners are afraid to file a complaint. They don’t know if this is a gang.”
Michael Tobman, a spokesman for Kim’s campaign, said they were baffled by the accusation.
“We actually have no idea what they’re talking about,” Tobman said. “The Halloran campaign stopped making sense about a week ago. Someone please tell them to stop.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.