Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bitter Campaign Battle's a Sign of the Times by Brendan Brosh - NY Daily News

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A CITY COUNCIL race in southeastern Queens is turning into an old-fashioned political street fight.

A $500 campaign sign for candidate Lynn Nunes, who is running against incumbent Thomas White Jr., was recently destroyed in front of a home on Baisley Blvd., Nunes said.

What's more, this isn't the first time his campaign material has been targeted, he said. More than a dozen of his signs were torn down at polling sites in September when he ran in a local Democratic District Leader race against White.

"We only put the sign up two days earlier," said Nunes, 24, who owns a real estate business in Richmond Hill. "The homeowner left the house for 20 minutes. Two of my campaigners drove by and saw that it was torn down."

The sign was about 5-feet tall and anchored into the ground. Nunes' campaign filed a police report declaring the sign was destroyed around 4:30 p.m. on June 17.

"Someone put a lot of effort into tearing it down," Nunes said. "It was politically motivated, no doubt."

Nunes said he saw a young man taken in by police for tearing down his signs in September - and then escorted out of the 113th Precinct by White.

"As I'm driving back to my polling site, I see Thomas White walking out with the guy accused of tearing down my signs," Nunes said.

White's spokesman Josh Wojehowski did not return calls to his mobile phone and office seeking comment.

White, who has been in office since 2005, represents a district that includes Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Rochdale Village and Richmond Hill. He previously served as councilman from 1991 to 2001, when he was forced out by term limits. He voted last year to repeal term limits.

"I'm all for competition, but this isn't respectful," said Nunes' campaign manager Tony Ortiz. "Tearing down signs isn't what's best for the community."

Nunes has since replaced the sign at the southeast corner of 154th St. and Baisley Blvd. because he wanted to show that he's not intimidated, he said.

According to the city Campaign Finance Board, seven candidates are vying for the seat, including White, Nunes, Robert Hogan, Stephen Jones, Mireille Leroy, Joseph Marthone and Ruben Wills. Former Councilman Allan Jennings is also said to be mulling a run.

Nunes said he hopes to run an "issues-oriented campaign" focusing on foreclosure prevention, crime reduction and improving local schools.

"As leaders, we have to set the tone," he said. "When we campaign, it should be about issues and integrity. It's foolish and immature to tear down signs."