In a primary that saw attacks on matters outside of the issues, both candidates in the general election for State Senate District 15 have vowed the race to November 6 will be a clean fight.
Councilmember Eric Ulrich defeated Forest Hills lawyer Juan Reyes in a September 13 Republican primary — a rarity in the district. Leading up to the primary, the Reyes campaign sent out a number of mailers that criticized Ulrich’s record and made mentions of hiring gay staffers and dining with a gay colleague.
“It pays to take the high road, because when they take the low road and you take the high road, you’re always going to win,” Ulrich said upon his victory. “We are so proud of the fact that we ran a clean campaign based on the issues and got our message out to the voters in the district.”
Ulrich now faces incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who has represented District 15 since 2009. Ulrich also sits in the council seat held by Addabbo before his run for Albany.
Both Addabbo and Ulrich have promised that this race will be on the issues and who can best represent the vast, newly redrawn district — which spans from Maspeth to the Rockaways.
“This election is about the people,” said Addabbo. “It is about our economy, about keeping our streets safe, and about good schools for our kids. It is about our seniors, our veterans, and taking care of our community. I look forward to a meaningful discussion on all of these issues in the coming weeks.”
Likewise, Ulrich told reporters at his victory party this race would be on who could do the best job and tackle problems in the state and the district.
“The campaign from this point on will be about issues, and ideas, and the difference between me and him,” he said.
Friends of Juan Reyes had launched an attack of mudslinging on the councilmember with a slew of mailers criticizing his record and his associations. One mailer depicted Ulrich as a Soviet leader; another showed popular movie villains endorsing Ulrich, along with Ulrich friend John Haggerty — a former Bloomberg advisor convicted of embezzling nearly a $1 million from the mayor’s 2009 re-election campaing; and a third attacked the councilmember for voting in favor of gay marriage and associating with Democratic colleagues.
The campaign literature, Ulrich said, was also offensive to a number of the varying demographics that make up the redrawn District 15.
“To use outright bigotry to try to scare voters and outright intimidate voters I think is an absolute disgrace,” Ulrich said. “The people that I’ve talked to say this is the lowest they’ve ever seen, particularly in a Republican primary. I don’t use labels to describe other people; they shouldn’t use labels to describe me.”
Gerry O’Brien, head of the Reyes campaign, said these mailers were intended to criticize Ulrich for his record in the council and his support from the State Republican party.
During election night, volunteers on the Reyes campaign asked journalists to leave the campaign’s gathering, sources said.
The Reyes campaign website issued a third-person apology from Reyes regarding the mailer alleging that Ulrich was “gay friendly.”
“Juan Reyes personally apologizes for the hurt some of our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens felt — regardless of whether they are gay or straight,” the statement reads.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani endorsed Ulrich in the wake of the mailer debacle.
“[After] what his [Reyes’] campaign has done, which is disgusting,” the former mayor said, “Juan doesn’t belong in politics.”