Controversial mailer nominated for prestigious award

The “Porn & Guns” mailer sent out by the campaign of 38th District Assemblywomen Joan Voss (D-Fort Lee) and Connie Wagner (D-Paramus) appeared to backfire locally, but the man who runs the firm that made the flyer stands behind it. 

So much so, in fact, that the firm submitted it for one of Politics Magazine’s Reed Awards, and it has been selected as one of three finalists for the category of “Direct Mail – Democratic State Legislative Candidate.” 

“We thought it was a good piece. We thought it was effective. We thought it was accurate.  End of story,” said Andrew Kennedy of Kennedy Communications.  “You obviously decided it was a piece you felt was over the top… We could go back and forth about what Republicans and Democrats think is hyperbole. The fact that this piece was singled out to be uniquely over the top was absurd.”

The flyer accused Republican assembly candidate Judith Fisher of being a “consultant to one of the largest pornographic companies in the world” (She sells accounting software to Playboy, among other clients) and running mate Nicholas Lonzisero of renting space to a gun store near an elementary school (a more accurate claim, though he is a co-owner of the space, rents it to several other stores as well, and the local controversy over the gun store died down years ago). 

The piece cost the Democrats an otherwise sure-thing endorsement by The Record, which praised their legislative records but called the flyer a “deal breaker,” endorsing the Republicans instead.

Even before that editorial, the district’s Democratic state senator, Robert Gordon (D-Paramus), told PolitickerNJ.com that he did not “understand the logic” of going so negative in a race that was considered safe. 

Kennedy, however, said that he did not take the race for granted. 

“You could have asked Tom Souzzi whether he was in a competitive race a month before he lost with $1 million in the bank as Nassau County Executive,” he said.  “It was something that I felt the Democrats felt was an important seat, and we made the decision to make it clear to people what these peoples’ records were.”

Bergen County Republican Chairman Robert Yudin said that considering the flyer for an award was “like giving an award to Hitler.” 

“If this magazine has stooped to this level, then all this magazine is good for is to be used for toilet paper,” he said.

Judith Fisher, the former candidate the flyer tied to the porn industry, was taken aback by the selection.

“If it is the intention of Politics Magazine to reward bad behavior, then by all means the “Guns and Porn” piece qualifies.  But as a finalist for a Reed Award?  What was their criterion?”

Politics publisher Jordan Lieberman provided the answer: the finalists are selected by panels of prominent judges from various political and reporting backgrounds.

“Bob Yudin should direct his remarks to our judges, such as Christie Whitman, Ben Dworkin, George Stephanopoulos and Steve Scully from C-Span,” said Lieberman. “I’m sure Bob Yudin is a fine appliance salesman.”

(Lieberman was the publisher of PoliticsNJ.com from 2000 to 2006.)

Dworkin, who directs the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said he did not judge this particular category.  The flyer, he said, did not appear to backfire much at the ballot box. 

“Now in that particular district, even in this particular year that was a tough one for Democrats, it didn’t make a difference in the final tally,” he said.  “But The Record clearly stated its disapproval, and the people who value that editorial page’s endorsement in guiding their vote were probably affected by that decision.”

Controversial mailer nominated for prestigious award