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When it comes to campaign politics, City Councilmember Kendall Stewart has gone to the dark side.
Over the last few weeks, registered voters in the 45th District have received several mailings from the flagging incumbent that has lambasted challenger and Democratic nominee Jumaane Williams, depicting him as everything from a “carpetbagger” to not having “any interest in you or the community.”
The Stewart camp dropped the mother of all negative campaign mailings this past weekend, listing all of the addresses that Williams had reportedly lived in since 2005 in an attempt to prove that the Working Families Party-backed candidate is new to the community.
The mailing also listed information claiming to be from the Board of Elections showing that Williams had voted in the neighboring 46th District in 2008.
“[Williams] moved into the 45th District in June, only three months ago,” the mailing claims.
But when Williams looks at the list of former addresses, he has to laugh, especially since he says he’s never lived at some of them.
“This is the last great act of desperation,” said Williams, who asserts that he has lived in the 45th District for the last 15 years and that the mailings are “distorting the truth.” “I think that it’s sad that this is the way he wants to run a campaign and how he wants to be remembered as a councilman. I think his time would be better spent to create a good transition.”
While most thought that Stewart would sail off into political oblivion after his defeat in September, the incumbent managed to get onto the Independent party line.
Now armed with a second chance, he seems to be focusing all of his attention on cutting Williams off at the knees.
Along with raising the carpetbagger issue, Stewart has put Williams in bed with another group that voters hate: developers.
“He’s trying to link me with developers, but I have been fighting against them throughout most of my career as a community organizer,” Williams said, adding that he had just recently successfully down-zoned Canarsie as a member of Community Board 18. “Meanwhile he [Stewart] has accepted money from developers and rent stabilization and landlord lobbyists.”
“If he didn’t appear to be so arrogant in the primary, he could have run a better campaign,” said Williams, recognizing that Stewart has plenty of his own dirt: two of his aides pleaded guilty earlier this year to embezzling city funds. The incumbent also voted in favor of extending term limits, but Williams hasn’t brought up these points in his campaign mailings. “This is his last-ditch effort to win and he’s lying to the voters. But the voters are smart and, in his own words, ‘If somebody is not happy with an elected official, then the voters will vote them out.’”
When contacted, Stewart defended his mailings, calling them accurate.
“[The information] came from the DMV and the Board of Elections, so how could we be distorting the truth?” he asked. “It’s not like we took someone’s word for it. This is from city records.”
“He is someone who was planted here by the Working Families Party and ACORN,” Stewart said of Williams. “He is not who he claims to be.”
As he pins his hopes on the Independent line, Stewart realizes he’s facing an uphill battle in the fight to retain his City Council seat.
“It’s not something that cannot be done,” he said. “People should have a freedom of choice. That’s what democracy is about and that’s what the voters are looking for.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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