By Lindsey Bever
The election is just around the corner and campaign advertisements bragging on – and taking shots at – local candidates have created overflowing mailboxes throughout Queens.
Sera Maldonado of Ozone Park said campaign flyers have been creeping into her mail for months, but she hasn’t noticed where they’re coming from or what claims they’re making.
“I don’t read the mailers. I tear them up and put them in the recycling,” said Maldonado, 39. “It’s a waste of trees. Most people don’t pay attention to those things. I know I don’t.”
A handful of the mailers in Maldonado’s garbage feature Sen. Joseph Addabbo and New York City Councilmember Eric Ulrich – the two candidates in the state Senate District 15 race.
The Ulrich fliers, many of which are paid for by the New York Republican State Committee, accuse the two-term Democratic Sen. Addabbo of working to raise property taxes, income taxes and the sales tax. It’s a campaign that comes with its own a website, addabbowatch.com, that explains its rationale for why “Joe Addabbo has been a disaster.”
More recently, the New York State Democratic Committee and the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee have released mailers targeting Ulrich. One claims the councilmember would impose his own “backward views on women” if elected.
Republican campaign strategist Richard St. Paul, a former New Rochelle City Council member, said there’s a reason the parties are pushing negative ads.
“We know going negative works,” said St. Paul. “Sometimes what happens is people are turned off by negative campaigning, although, a lot of times it does work.”
Attack mail directed at Addabbo has also trickled in from NYS Committee of the Independence Party as well as the right-leaning Common Sense Principles in Glen Allen, Va. Neither of these organizations, nor the New York State Democratic Committee, returned several phone calls for comment.
The two parties have also released mailers promoting their own candidates.
The Republican State Committee put out mailers promoting Ulrich’s stance on crime, jobs and taxes. (Ulrich did not return multiple calls over a period of about 10 days on deadline.)
Ulrich was targeted by tough negative campaigning during the Republican primary. In September, opponent Juan Reyes released a flier accusing Ulrich of having dinner with an openly gay Queens councilman and his partner.
But Addabbo said he thinks that positive campaigns typically beat out negative campaigns.
“We don’t do negative campaigns,” he said. “People want to hear your vision, your ideas, what you’re going to do for them, what you have done for them. And we have that story.”
The mailers released directly from Addabbo’s campaign mainly focus on his role in modifying the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program to lower prescription drug costs, as well as working to ban assault weapons. QueensCampaign.com could not locate negative mailers flowing directly from the candidates’ campaigns – only the parties.
Campaign advertising has evolved, said Democratic political strategist George Arzt, the former press secretary to former Mayor Edward Koch.
“No longer can you do a flyer saying, ‘Vote for so-and-so. He stands for XYZ.’ You need to capture the imagination of the voter. To do that, you need to have a compelling piece of literature,” said Arzt, president of his own communications firm.
With a state Senate Republican majority of only 33-29, the party is focusing its strategy on snagging seats, said Becky Miller, New York Republican State Committee spokeswoman.
“We try to give attention to all seats that we think we have a shot at winning. So, we certainly give attention to this race” in Queens,” she said. “We look at voter enrollment.”
Senate District 15 voters are mostly Democratic, according to the State Board of Elections. Among active voters in the district, 80,390 are Democrats, 30,854 are Republicans and 4,249 are registered with the Independent Party, according to the report.
Still, St. Paul said, Queens can often lean Republican. Prior to Abbabbo’s winning the state Senate seat in 2008, it belonged to Republican Serphin Maltese who had been in office for 18 years. And the Republican Party kept control of the state Senate for many decades until the 2008 election, he said. The Republicans regained the majority in 2010.
MORE THAN MONEY
The New York Republican State Committee has spent more than $270,000 on campaign mail statewide since December, according to this year’s financial disclosures. By comparison, the New York State Democratic Committee has spent more than $200,000 on campaign mail statewide since December.
Jennifer Galvin, communications director for Addabbo, said money alone doesn’t win votes.
“It is not the thousands of dollars spent on mailers, ads and billboards that will win. It is about going out there speaking to voters, listening to their concerns,” she said via email.
But Miller disagreed.
“Certainly money plays a role in elections,” she said. “A lot of people have really stepped up and donated to the party because they want to see this country – from the local races to the national – really change direction.”
And James Galleshaw, a 39-year-old Howard Beach voter, said these anti-Addabbo campaign ads are doing just that – bringing attention to the campaign to effect change.
“The last two months, I’ve gotten probably 30 [mailers],” he said. “They’re very telling. They show a lot of truths that maybe the senator doesn’t want people to know … like about him raising taxes. It’s definitely time for a change.”
But Maldonado doesn’t think mailers are the way to win it this year. She said she made her decision to vote for Addabbo, but based on his reputation – not on his advertisements.
“He’s been very positive in the way he does things,” she said.