By Karen Frantz
Voter Karen King said she was already planning on coming out to the polls last Thursday to vote for City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who won the Republican nomination for state Senate in the 15th District.
After she saw a mailer from his opponent, Juan Reyes, that bashed Ulrich for being gay-friendly, however, she said she had extra motivation to get out to vote.
“This has got to be one of the dirtiest local campaigns I have ever seen,” she said. “A lot of hitting below the belt, which in a local election is ridiculous.”
The mailer was sent out in the days leading up to the primary and it criticized Ulrich for dining with a gay Democratic city councilman and hiring gay staff members. It sparked a last-hour media controversy and prompted former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to endorse Ulrich over Reyes, even though Reyes used to work for his administration.
Ulrich’s campaign said Monday, however, that he was likely to have prevailed easily over Reyes anyway.
“I think he would have won regardless of those mailers, but they had such a nasty tone and they were filled with a lot of lies and distortion … that I think it definitely energized people to go out and vote for Eric,” said Jessica Proud, Ulrich’s campaign spokeswoman.
According to unofficial city Board of Elections results, Ulrich won with 70 percent of the vote and Reyes garnered 30 percent.
Ulrich also won the Independence Party primary, with 84 percent of the vote vs. 16 percent for his opponent Joseph Tiraco, according to unofficial city data.
Proud said she heard from some poll sites that they were turning away a number of registered Democrats who came to the polls to vote for Ulrich because of the mailers. Democrats are not permitted to vote in Republican primaries.
Gerry O’Brien, the spokesman for Reyes’ campaign, said the mailers “certainly didn’t help the campaign,” but said he doubted it had a large impact because they would have arrived in voters’ mailboxes only a few days before the election.
He also said the online media attention was less likely to reach older individuals, who do not surf the Web as much but tend to make up a large percentage of voters. He said robo-calls from Giuliani endorsing Ulrich probably had more of an impact.
An apology for the mailers was posted on Reyes’ campaign website over the weekend.
“Clearly, what our campaign intended to say in one of our final mailings was not what people heard, and for that the Reyes campaign is deeply sorry,” the post said. “The campaign’s only goal for that mailing [was] to expose the hypocrisy of flip-flopping, but in the final days of the campaign we rushed a piece to press and should have given our candidate time to scrutinize it.”
Ulrich will now face off against Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) in the general election this November. Addabbo has held the 15th District seat since 2008, when he beat the 10-term Republican Sen. Serphin Maltese.
The 15th District encompasses Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Glendale, Middle Village, Woodhaven, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Rego Park, Ridgewood and Sunnyside.