As primary campaigns for the 15th State Senate District came to a close, campaign funds and mudslinging came to a head.
Although Councilmember Eric Ulrich outraised opponent Juan Reyes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Reyes camp spent $9,000 more to sway voters before polls open, according to 11-day Pre Primary disclosure reports released by the Board of Elections.
At the opening of the period, which began on August 13, Ulrich’s war chest boasted $352,758 — well above the Reyes balance of $22,117. During this time, while raining $11,000, the Reyes camp spent more than $26,000; Ulrich for Senate, which raised $1,800, spent $17,218.
During the campaign, Ulrich received a plethora of endorsements, and with that, campaign donations. In the July periodic report filed by Ulrich for State Senate, the New York State Republican committee wired $250,000 into the campaign’s account.
The latest report showed a high number of Friends of Juan Reyes’ transactions went toward campaign mailing material.
A string of mailers sent by the campaign in the week leading up to the primary took potshots at the councilmember, sparking upset and allegations of insensitivity from Ulrich’s campaign.
One particular mailer included a photo of Ulrich’s head superimposed on the body of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev — who led the USSR for nearly 20 years — adorned with several medals.
“Comrades! The glorious party leadership has already chosen Comrade Ulrich as your new senator,” the mailer reads. “Do as you are told and obey them.”
Ulrich spokesperson Jessica Proud noted the mailer could be offensive to the Eastern European demographic that lives in the reshaped 15th Senate District.
“This senate district is home to many Eastern Europeans who fled Soviet oppression for freedom here in the United States,” she said. “For [Reyes] to use images of that horrible period is deplorable.”
But if anyone were to understand the mailer, it would be the Eastern European demographic that left the former Soviet Union, said Gerry O’Brien, who runs the Reyes campaign. “They’re the kind of people who understands this best — they get it,” he said.
The same mailer, directed at different opponents, had been sent out in the past, Proud noted. She referred to one mailer against former state senate candidate Stephen B. Kaufman in a 2004 GOP primary in the Bronx, a Democratic assemblymember who was backed by the state Republican party.
The photo is nearly the same, although with Kaufman’s head superimposed on Brezhnev’s body, and uses the exact same wording — with the exception of “Comrade Kaufman.”