Throughout the Democratic primary race between state Sen. Co-majority Leader Jeff Klein and former Councilman Oliver Koppell, the dynamic has mostly followed the script of indignant challenger firing off polemics and comfortable incumbent seeking to stay above the fray.
It took weeks for Mr. Klein to issue a mailer on par with Mr. Koppell’s August campaign material saying, “Do we really want a coldblooded political reptile representing us in Albany?” The mailer included a picture of an iguana and an excerpt from a 2012 New York Post story slamming Mr. Klein’s power-sharing coalition with senate Republicans.
Several days ago, the senator sent out a testy mailer of his own.
“Oliver Koppell wants your vote. He just doesn’t respect your opinion,” it reads before quoting a recent New York Daily News article that found Mr. Koppell apparently deriding constituents while campaigning in Morris Park.
The mailers are unusual for Riverdale, which prides itself as a bastion of civility in New York’s contentious political scene. But Alan Handell, who has printed mailers for prominent Democratic candidates for the past 40 years, said Mr. Klein’s and Mr. Koppell’s latest literature is extreme even by the rest of the city’s standards. Mr. Handell has been printing Mr. Koppell’s mailings, but says he has no control over the content.
“This is very tough, hard-hitting stuff,” said Mr. Handell, who previously printed mailers for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama along with numerous city politicians. “I don’t remember seeing anything as tough hitting. Obviously it got Klein to respond, because he’s fighting back, too.
Koppell calls for probe
Mr. Koppell has asked New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for an immediate investigation into allegations that Mr. Klein has turned a local non-profit, the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corporation (KRVC) into a campaign vehicle.
In an Aug. 25 letter, Mr. Koppell says KRVC has violated its 501(c)(3) status by promoting Mr. Klein’s candidacy after receiving “a substantial amount of State funding” from the senator.
Mr. Koppell, who was appointed as the state’s interim attorney general in 1994, but lost his bid to keep the spot, contends KRVC’s Executive Director Tracy Shelton has inappropriately used a large outdoor movie screen bearing Mr. Klein’s face and taken other steps to promote the senator.
Mr. Schneiderman’s office did not immediately answer an inquiry seeking confirmation it has received the letter.
If the attorney general is in fact seriously looking into the matter, his office is unlikely to make announcements until after election season is over, to avoid the appearance of interfering in the democratic process.
Mr. Klein’s campaign spokeswoman called Mr. Koppell’s charges baseless.
“It’s hypocritical for Senator Klein’s challenger, who himself has received public recognition for his support of this organization, and has often been thanked at their events, while providing funding to the organization, to now accuse Senator Klein of wrongdoing,” Candice Giove said in an e-mail.
Ms. Shelton said she had not been notified of any complaints sent to Mr. Schneiderman and that “It is distressing to be caught in the middle of a mean-spirited and groundless campaign stunt.”
‘Times’ endorses Koppell
Mr. Koppell’s underdog candidacy got a major boost on Saturday from The New York Times, whose ringing endorsement both bashed Mr. Klein and his group of breakaway Democrats and praised the former councilman as “one of New York’s most respected public servants.”
The editorial called Mr. Klein and his Independent Democratic Conference “a gang of opportunists” whose “power grab in Albany… gave Republicans veto power over some of the state’s most important issues.”
The piece went on to call Mr. Koppell “by far the better candidate.” The editorial board’s “enthusiastic” endorsement of him marks a stark contrast with its stance on Gov. Cuomo’s primary race, in which the newspaper refrained from endorsing any of the candidates.
Mr. Koppell’s campaign is distributing copies of the endorsement for the home stretch of intense campaigning throughout the district.
Mr. Klein’s campaign declined to comment on the endorsement.
The challenger’s wife and campaign supporter Lorraine Coyle Koppell said though many people initially called his primary run “quixotic” — adding she never accepted the contention — she now sees the momentum in his favor in light of recent endorsements from the Times along with the Sierra Club’s New York City chapter.
In the face of overwhelming Democratic establishment support for Mr. Klein, that seems like a rosy point of view. Also, the Times’ endorsement hardly guarantees success at polls; remember the paper’s endorsement of Christine Quinn for mayor? Still, Mr. Koppell can now tout a “progressive seal of approval” — to use Mr. Klein’s description of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s endorsement earlier this year — on par with the support the senator has received.
LGBT groups pressure Rangel
LGBT groups including the Bronx Rainbow Democratic Coalition and a number of city and state lawmakers are asking Rep. Charles Rangel to take back his endorsement of Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is challenging state Sen. Gustavo Rivera in next week’s Democratic primary.
In an Aug. 28 letter recently quoted in The New York Daily News, the signers say Mr. Cabrera “does not stand with the LGBT community. In fact, he actively works against all of us and many of his policy positions are in opposition to the long march toward equality seen throughout your career.”
The document also says Mr. Cabrera, who leads a Bronx church, opposed New York State’s Marriage Equality Bill and has worked with anti-LGBT groups to undermine their cause.
“Congressman, your endorsement in this race tarnishes your long history of supporting LGBT rights,” the signers say, calling on Mr. Rangel to support Mr. Rivera, who has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage and other pro-LGBT legislation.
Mr. Cabrera’s campaign did not answer a request for comment.
Mr. Rangel appears unlikely to change his stance on the 33rd state Senate district primary.
But in an e-mail statement, his spokeswoman said, “The Congressman has always been and will continue to be a champion of civil rights and the LGBT community. He will work with current and future local elected leaders to join him in this effort.”
Engel in Israel
Rep. Eliot Engel went to Israel with Rep. Ed Royce this week.
The congressmen discussed U.S.-Israel ties and threats to Israeli security with officials including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as well as former Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Salaam Fayyad.
“The purpose of this trip was to deliver a clear message: Israel has no better friend than the United States. We steadfastly supported Israel in times of Hamas aggression and now we are partnering with our closest ally in the Mideast as they chart a way forward during the ceasefire with Hamas,” Mr. Engel said in a statement.
The statement also noted that the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed his Emergency Iron Dome Replenishment Act, which reinforces U.S. support of Israel’s anti-rocket system, in July.
The Press will further report on Mr. Engel’s trip next week.