Presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in Tuesday’s local congressional primaries, but that has not stopped many of the Democratic contenders from using his face and most incendiary statements in their campaign mailings.
In the First District’s Democratic primary on the East End, venture capitalist David Calone’s repeated mailings that attempt to tie former Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to Trump because she made contributions to the Conservative Party, which endorsed him, have fueled one of the most heated issues in the race. Throne-Holst has called the charges “baseless.”
In the crowded Third District primary in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, four of five of the Democratic candidates have at least mentioned Trump.
The fifth, attorney Jonathan Clarke, in his lone mailing cited another presidential contender, Bernie Sanders, whom he supports. Clarke also used a photo of a statue of Teddy Roosevelt to underline his own progressive credentials.
Since there’s been so little sniping among Democrats seeking retiring Rep. Steve Israel’s seat, most instead have sought to promote themselves by targeting Trump.
“It just seems we can’t stop talking about Trump,” said Michael Dawidziak, a political consultant who works mainly for Republicans. “If they are using Trump as a boogeyman to generate interest and motivate people to vote, it could work because they need all the help they can get with turnout.”
However, Dawidziak warned that in the First District, the attacks by Calone and Throne-Holst are more likely to depress turnout and hurt Democrats in the long run.
In a mailer aimed at women voters in the Third District, former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi used a grim-faced photo of Trump accompanied by his quote, “I’m the best thing that ever happened to women.”
On the reverse side, Suozzi’s wife, Helene, responds, “No you’re not, Donald,” adding “We don’t like being degraded, dismissed and disrespected.”
Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) headlined one mailing, “When Donald Trump and the NRA bully Congress, we’re all at risk.” The piece showed a photo of Trump and an automatic weapon in the background.
Another contender in the Third, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan, headlined one mailing, “Enough is enough, Donald,” in bold type. The mailer includes Trump quotes about a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border he says he’ll make Mexicans pay for, and his comments that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who seek abortions.
Former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman made the most modest use of Trump’s name in a mailing headlined, “A Time for Action.”
Among six pledges in smaller type, Kaiman vows to “lead the fight against racism, recklessness and destructive politics of Donald Trump.”
In another mailing, Kaiman touts his Project Independence, which aims to help seniors stay in their homes. It pictures Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, who created Social Security, and Lyndon Johnson, who started Medicare.
In the First District, Calone and Throne-Holst have been more confrontational.
Calone in four separate mailings has targeted Throne-Holst, a former Independence Party member who just joined the Democratic Party last year, for making contributions to the Conservatives four times. The mailers attempt to tie her to Trump because the Conservative Party has endorsed “The Donald.”
Throne-Holst responded with a mailing in which former Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said: “Accusing Anna of supporting Donald Trump is a new low in Democratic politics. Dave Calone should apologize for that statement.”
Throne-Holst calls Calone’s attacks “baseless and disingenuous,” and has criticized Trump as a racist and misogynist.
Her mailings also attack Calone for his role as a board member of the Long Island Power Authority.
She has blamed him for LIPA’s response to Superstorm Sandy and in mailings notes his departure from the board right after the storm in 2012. “Two days after Sandy, Calone resigned while we tried to put our lives back together,” the mailing states.
Calone said Throne-Holst has “wildly exaggerated” his role in storm preparedness, saying that as a board member he had no management responsibilities for storm response. He called it “shameful that Anna is politicizing” Sandy.