Hateful campaigning, knocking over signs
Campaigning, regardless of office, was never supposed to be a friendly competition.
However, it seems that some campaigns may be taking their race to the county or town seat too far.
On Oct. 31, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan and Jon Kaiman, Deputy County Executive of Suffolk, who was running to be the next Town of North Hempstead Supervisor, held a press conference outside of Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview. They stood aside a wall constructed to display missing fliers of the over 200 hostages that were kidnapped by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7, to address campaigning materials paid for by the Nassau County Republican Committee that were described as antisemitic. Lafazan, an incumbent, ran against challenger Samantha Goetz in the 18th district. And Kaiman was challenging incumbent Jennifer DeSena.
“I am proud to be Jewish,” Lafazan said. “I am proud to be the grandson of a Holocaust refugee. I’m proud to be the cousin of a current IDF reservist.”
Lafazan said he was speechless when he saw the campaign materials. The elongated nose, the dirty appearance, yellow, long teeth and the handfuls of money were some of the aspects of the manipulated photos of him that he compared to Nazi-era propaganda. Campaign material against Kaiman depicted him having a larger head, with larger facial features, and handfuls of money. This type of campaign material has been sent out to constituents for months, Lafazan said.
“I have been running for office since I was 18 years old,” Lafazan said. “I ran for the school Board of Education at Syosset High School when I was 18, and in the 11 years since I have faced antisemitism in my daily life but never faced antisemitism on a campaign before.”
Lafazan said he knows that during a campaign, you will be attacked.
“But no one deserves this,” Lafazan said.
Kaiman, who is also the chairman of an antisemitism taskforce in Suffolk County, called these days extraordinary times, citing the war between Israel and Hamas.
“The imagery might not catch everybody as being starkly antisemitic,” Kaimain said. “But those of us who follow it, who’ve lived it, who have seen what happens when people turn hate into action, we’ve learned that we can not take it for granted.”
Woodbury resident Israel Weisfelner called for Goetz to step down from the election. As someone who was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany to Holocaust survivors, he said he was sick to his stomach when he received the mailer.
“I challenge anyone who created this poster to actually tell us where these symbols come from,” said Rabbi Jaimee Shalhevet of North Shore Synagogue in Syosset. “None of it is based on fact. It is all based on fear, anger and hatred.”
In a response, the Nassau County Republican Committee stated that the mailers accurately illustrate the corruption and tax hikes of candidates for public office at the behest of partisan interest.
“The Republican Party has no knowledge of the religion that the candidates in question observe,” the statement read. “Nor do we associate illustrations of greedy and corrupt politicians holding money with any ethnic group, race or religion. Shame on the Democrat Party if it makes any such association.”
In the same statement, the Nassau County Republican Committee condemned the Oyster Bay Democratic Committee.
“The Town of Oyster Bay Democrat Committee’s Facebook post, which depicts an image of a pig with a swastika on its hind quarters as an emblem of the Republican Party… This is an unmitigated trope of ‘Jew-hatred’ on steroid,” the statement read.
The post in question was a shared YouTube video from the channel “The Accurate Pessimist.” The video, which consists of a voice-over and photo slideshow, alleges that voting for Town of Oyster Bay Republican candidates is the same as voting for former U.S. President Donald Trump. The photo of the pig styled to look like Trump with the swastika was a criticism of him, accompanied with the words “Say goodbye to almost 250 years of Democracy.”
“The New York State Republican Committee’s relentless flurry of anti-Semitic mailers is a disgrace,” said Oyster Bay Democratic Committee Town Leader David Mejias. “If only they channeled that zeal into addressing Oyster Bay’s deep-seated corruption that wastes taxpayer’s money, rather than fixating on a Facebook video of their beloved leader – Donald Trump.”
Ravin Chetram, who was running for Oyster Bay Town Board, said he has been receiving the campaign materials against Lafazan.
“It’s so many that people who vote Republican are getting sick of it,” Chetram said.
The Oyster Bay Democratic Committee has also grown weary of their opponents’ campaign practices, he said.
Chetram said he was noticing Oyster Bay Democratic Committee campaign signs were being ripped down all over town. He posted a video to his Instagram page, which he showed untouched signs for Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Councilwoman Vicki Walsh and James Asmus, who was running for Nassau County Legislator against incumbent Legislator Arnold Drucker in the 16th district. He then showed ripped down signs for Drucker and the Oyster Bay Democrats.
Chetram added that he’s been seeing his own banners being torn down. He said at first the banners were being pulled off the metal frames and dropped onto the ground, which would be fixed any time members of the campaign passed them. However, the banners eventually started getting ripped in half so that they could not be fixed.
“It’s happening all over way too often,” Chetram said. “It’s frustrating. It’s not good what they’re doing. They’re being bullies and I don’t like it.”
Chetram said he can’t prove the Oyster Bay Republican candidates are responsible, but some members of the community believe that is the case, Chetram said.
“Their claim is totally ridiculous and a desperate attempt to grab sensational headlines before Election Day,” said Brian Nevin, a spokesperson for local Republican campaigns. “Let’s face it; local Democrats have no support from homeowners due to their high tax and criminal-first policies. Democrats have resorted to putting political signs on state roadways, which are later removed by State Department of Transportation crews.”
Nevin then referenced Jacob Scheiner, who is challenging District 6 Nassau County Legislator William Gaylor III. Scheiner was caught on a Ring camera video having an unidentified person steal his opponent’s sign and replace it with his own while he was operating the vehicle. Scheiner was charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, Nassau County Police told the New York Post.