Mailers cast one-sided narratives in Kaplan-Phillips race

Janelle Clausen
Mailers from independent groups and party committees have cast Elaine Phillips and Anna Kaplan in starkly different lights. (Photos from the candidates)
Mailers from independent groups and party committees have cast Elaine Phillips and Anna Kaplan in starkly different lights. (Photos from the candidates)

If voters were to judge state Sen. Elaine Phillips based on the mailers they received in recent weeks, they might see her as a Donald Trump in disguise who “had the chance to prevent the next school shooting,” but “failed us” while giving money away to charter schools.

But they might also see her as a fighter for safe drinking water, delivering record community funding to local institutions and “taking on Albany corruption and getting results” for the district.

At the same time, they might have also have seen her opponent for state Senate, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, as someone profiting off of pollution, willing to raise taxes while giving herself a raise, and dabbling in corruption with party bosses.

Or, alternatively, they might see her as a smiling “defender of Long Island taxpayers” willing to hold the line on taxes, strengthen gun laws and protect women’s reproductive rights.

These are among the dueling narratives cast by mailers sent out by committees to state Senate District 7 residents.

Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC, the political action committee for the Service Employees International Union, invested $89,707.50 in anti-Phillips mailers as of Oct. 1, according to a financial disclosure report filed 32 days before the general election with the New York state Board of Elections.

Among the mailers are one with stark crimson and black text over a white background, with a grainy video showing people fleeing from a gunman.

“Elaine Phillips had the chance to prevent the next school shooting. But she failed us,” the mailer says on one side, before saying she “voted against common sense gun reform,” is “against keeping guns off school grounds” and “runs away from questions on gun violence.”

At least two others also seek to draw parallels between Phillips and President Donald Trump, saying that she is on the “wrong side of gun reform,” “threatening the right to choose” to have an abortion, and has supported “Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ agenda of supporting charter schools over our public schools.”

Kyle Bragg, a secretary and treasurer for the union, did not respond to requests for comment.

Another mailer, paid for by Fighting for Our Future, features a racing school with money flying out the windows saying “Albany politician Elaine Phillips is sending our tax dollars to NYC charter schools.”

It then charges that after charter school backers spending millions to help her campaign in 2016, she voted to send more than $22 million in tax dollars to city charter schools.

“As the mailers are independent expenditures, the campaign does not and cannot coordinate with the groups sending them out,” Kaplan campaign spokeswoman Tess McRae said. “Instead, we are focused on electing Democrat Anna Kaplan to the State Senate so that she can pass desperately needed and long overdue legislation such as the Reproductive Health Act and common-sense gun violence prevention once and for all.”

There are also mailers being sent out from the respective party committees. The New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is sending out mailers touting Kaplan as someone who would be “a defender of Long Island taxpayers,” for example, and “fight for what’s right” in protecting women’s reproductive rights and strengthening gun violence prevention laws.

Meanwhile, one mailer from the New York Republican Senate Campaign Committee features an image of “the proverbial smoke-filled back room,” where “party bosses and politicians cut deals to enrich themselves at our expense.”

It seeks to link former North Hempstead Democratic Party head Gerard Terry, who was sentenced for tax fraud and evasion, with  Kaplan, alleging that she “rewards her political boss” with two taxpayer-financed jobs. It then goes on to say she voted to raise property taxes while giving herself a raise.

“We’ve had enough corruption in Nassau County,” it reads. “The last thing we need is politician Anna Kaplan in Albany.”

Another Republican mailer focuses more on property taxes and the raise and says,  “Anna Kaplan loves taking money from your family!”

Two other mailers also call Phillips a fighter, including one saying that she has fought against corruption in Albany and is “getting real results, real reform.”

A representative for the New York Republican Senate Campaign Committee could not be reached for comment.

Chris McKenna, a spokesman for the Phillips campaign, said the campaign is showing the state senator’s “record of delivering and standing up for Long Island and this Senate district.”

McKenna also said the campaign intends to “share fact-based information about her opponent’s record of repeatedly raising taxes, while increasing her own pay” and the dangers of “single-party state government that her opponent champions.”

“By contrast, her opponent’s supporters have made no secret of their plans to run an ‘entirely negative’ campaign that has made outrageous claims about votes that never happened, and positions that the Senator has never held or supported,” McKenna said. “We trust that voters can tell the difference, and when they weigh their choices for State Senate will understand that re-electing Senator Phillips will continue to move Long Island forward and protect our communities and way of life.”

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