Republican State Senate candidate Michael Venditto has released a new ad attacking his opponent, Democrat David Denenberg, for a 2005 arrest and conviction for a misdemeanor election law violation.
Denenberg pleaded guilty to falsely certifying that he had witnessed eight people sign a nominating petition in June 2003 for his bid to be elected a Democratic committeeman.
Several unidentified Denenberg campaign aides filed a complaint with then-Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a Republican, that Denenberg never actually observed the signatures being taken.
Denenberg's lawyers said he submitted thousands of signatures correctly but mistakenly signed the bottom of one sheet as a witness.
Denenberg was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.
Venditto's 30-second ad, which began airing on cable television stations last week, says Denenberg, a five-term Nassau County legislator from Merrick, "was accused of fraud and deceit" and had his law license suspended in New York and Jersey after pleading guilty in the case.
Denenberg campaign manager Jeff Friedman declined to discuss the specifics of the ad. In a statement, Friedman called it "a desperate attempt by a campaign that has to go negative because it has no positive record or issues to run on."
Friedman said voters deserve "a campaign focused on reducing property taxes, increasing school aid, creating jobs and promoting women's equality. And, for each of these issues, nobody fights harder than Dave Denenberg."
The Venditto campaign did not respond to several requests for comment about the ad. Said Nassau GOP spokesman Anthony Santino: "The ad speaks for itself."
Denenberg and Venditto, a Nassau County legislator from Massapequa, are running in the 8th District to replace former GOP state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, who stepped down late last year.
The ad features images of Denenberg's 2005 Nassau police mug shot and of the legislator leaving a police precinct after his Jan. 11, 2005, arrest.
"There are already too many criminals in Albany," a narrator says as ominous music plays in the background. "We don't need another. Tell Dave Denenberg 'no,' because Denenberg won't change Albany. He'll just fit right in."
Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs called the ad "misleading," and argued the charges against Denenberg were part of a "political attack" by Dillon, who died in 2010.
"The Republicans are trying to make something out of nothing," Jacobs said. "The only chance they have to win is through character assassination. That's not what politics should be about. Richard Nixon would be very proud of Mike Venditto."
Dillon's office denied at the time that politics had played a role in the Denenberg investigation.
As part of a deal with Dillon's office, First District Judge Randy Sue Marber gave Denenberg a conditional discharge and assessed him a mandatory court surcharge of $165. She also granted him a certificate of relief, allowing him to keep his elected office.
After the conviction, Dillon recommended that Denenberg be allowed to keep his law license. But the New York and New Jersey bar associations suspended Denenberg's license for 90 days. He continues to practice law.
Nassau Republicans have used images of Denenberg's arrest in campaign literature and online ads repeatedly in each of his legislative campaigns. This is the first time the images have appeared in a TV commercial.
Santino said the ad will air throughout the campaign. He declined to disclose the cost of the ad buy.
The 8th District is considered critical for Republicans as they attempt to win back full control of the State Senate.