In the final spurt before the Democratic primaries Sept. 12, the tone in several Queens City Council races has become down and dirty.
The first campaigns in the borough since Donald Trump was elected president may reflect a change in what is now considered acceptable in political hand-to-hand combat. There have been no local riffs on “Lock Her Up!” but we have seen some strikingly personal attacks between candidates.
In Flushing, Councilman Peter Koo is facing a curious challenge from Alison Tan, the wife of state Assemblyman Ron Kim, who had earlier endorsed the two-term councilman.
Tan accused Koo of endangering the health of the Asian community because his pharmacies sell cigarettes, but he called her a hypocrite because a photo on her Facebook page shows her smoking. Koo said Kim had done nothing as a state legislator to fix the city’s troubled subway system. Tan said it was “quite pathetic” Koo would resort to attacking her husband.
Over in Bayside, civic activist Paul Graziano recently withdrew a suit contending Councilman Paul Vallone used deceptive practices to collect signatures on petitions for his re-election bid. Vallone defeated Graziano in the 2013 primary.
Graziano has spent much of his recent campaign angrily assailing Vallone, letting his own solid record as a northeast Queens land use expert become eclipsed by the attacks. Vallone has replied with only brief official statements.
There is palpable bitterness in the campaign between Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Juniper Park Civic leader Robert Holden in Middle Village. Crowley’s campaign sent out a mailer depicting Holden as the surly grandfather on “The Simpsons,” which he claimed inspired an unidentified man to scrawl a bomb threat across his face on the flier and deliver it to his home.
But perhaps the most acrimonious race is state Assemblyman Francisco Moya versus former Councilman Hiram Monserrate in Corona.
Moya has repeatedly questioned Monserrate’s character and suitability for office because he was convicted of stealing taxpayer money from the district he once represented. Moya said he ran to stop a felon from occupying the seat.
Monserrate has accused Moya of hiding his legal residence in Long Island City, which is outside the Council district. Moya has refuted this claim by saying he lives with his parents in Corona.
All of these are legitimate campaign issues, but the dialogue has become far more confrontational. Whether this is a turnoff to voters or a motivator to get them to the polls remains to be seen.