President Barack Obama has become an unlikely issue in next week's Freeport Village mayoral election.
At the center of the debate is a campaign flier put out by incumbent Mayor Andrew Hardwick that superimposes his photo on a larger image of Obama, with the headline: "President Obama supports Mayor Hardwick."
The White House referred questions about the flier's claim of support to the Democratic National Committee. DNC spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle responded emphatically yesterday: "Mayor Hardwick has not been endorsed by the president."
Dan Taylor, a Hardwick spokesman, initially told Newsday that Obama had "endorsed" the mayor, but later said he meant to say "supports" as stated on the flier. "The flier says everything," he said.
Hardwick said in a statement that he had called the White House for help at some point after superstorm Sandy devastated Freeport and talked to one of Obama's aides.
Later that day, Hardwick said, he received a call back from an unnamed presidential aide "who advised that President Obama supports the mayor and with that would send the head administrator of FEMA to Freeport to meet with him."
Hardwick, a registered Democrat, is being challenged by trustee Robert Kennedy, also a registered Democrat, who was a member of Hardwick's slate four years ago. Kennedy is running on the "Unity Home Rule" coalition ticket.
Kennedy and other Hardwick critics complain the mayor misused the president's name and assistance for his own political ends.
"The president is supporting everybody who is affected by Sandy, not specifically supporting Andrew Hardwick," Kennedy said. "This is a political ad, not a public service announcement for people who were affected by Sandy."
Robert Zimmerman, Long Island's only Democratic national committeeman, said, "It is absurd to think that President Obama has taken sides in the Village of Freeport mayoral election. It's disgraceful and dishonest for Andrew Hardwick to misuse President Obama's name."Dewey Smalls, who ran against Kennedy in the past but supports him this year, said, "We have a great president. [Hardwick] . . . disrespected the man by saying something like that."