Joann Ariola, the Republican candidate for Queens borough president, is facing criticism after sending out campaign literature that some say falsely suggested she was endorsed by three former borough presidents, two of whom are dead.
The campaign mailer shows pictures of every woman to have served as the borough’s top executive, including Helen Marshall, Claire Shulman, Melinda Katz and the current Acting Borough President Sharon Lee. All four borough presidents served as Democrats.
“Since 1986, strong women with common sense have led Queens,” the mailer reads.
Some Queens residents, however, said they were confused by the association between Ariola and the four women.
“It seemed clear to me that she wanted to give the image of an endorsement without the actual endorsement,” said Nick Rafter, an Ozone Park resident whose aunt received the campaign advertisement in the mail. “My aunt was momentarily like, ‘this doesn’t seem right.'”
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, who served as borough president from 2014 until December 2019, demanded that Ariola stop using her image in mailers after becoming aware of the advertisement.
“This mailing misleadingly — and without my permission — seemingly and falsely implies support for Ms. Ariola’s Borough President campaign,” Katz said in a statement. “To be 100 percent clear, I did not endorse Joann Ariola. Beyond my situation, I find it particularly disturbing for Ms. Ariola to misleadingly invoke the images of my two late predecessors as Borough President, when she knows they cannot speak for themselves.”
Ariola’s campaign maintained that the mailer was a statement of historical fact, not a suggestion of any endorsement.
“Clearly, the piece claims no endorsement. It’s a statement of historical facts about the Borough President’s Office of Queens, stating the fact that women have been Borough President for more than 30 years,” a spokesperson from Ariola’s campaign said. “It’s surprising that District Attorney Katz doesn’t support electing strong women to public office. Maybe DA Katz and Donovan Richards should worry about putting the violent criminals they’ve released onto the streets of Queens back into jail, instead of playing politics with historical facts.”
Donovan Richards, Ariola’s opponent in the race who was endorsed by Shulman before her passing in August, took to Twitter to decry the mailer.
“Trump Republicans have no shame,” the city councilman wrote.
Trump Republicans have no shame. https://t.co/JpNavaDnoQ
— Donovan Richards (@DRichards13) October 29, 2020