Schneiderman's Letter Fails to Civilize AG Race

Well, so much for that.

After enduring some withering attacks in recent days, state Senator Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to his fellow attorney general candidates this morning, calling for a truce on any personal attacks.

“[F]or the good of the Democratic Party, I am writing to ask that each of you join me in pledging to refrain from negative personal attacks on one another as we enter the final stretch of this primary campaign for Attorney General,” Schneiderman wrote.

The letter in Schneiderman’s press release happened to be addressed to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who recently called him a “dangerous” pick for the office. Rice’s campaign yesterday said he was “caught in a lie” following a lengthy City Hall News story questioning his time as a deputy sheriff in Massachusetts. (Schneiderman had said he ran a drug treatment program he founded and coordinated, but–not being a drug professional–he hadn’t, in fact, run the program.)

Not surprisingly, Rice’s campaign didn’t go for the pledge.

“State Senator Schneiderman’s entire campaign has been built on personally attacking District Attorney Rice and distorting her lifelong record of legal advocacy. These actions make his plea today fall somewhere between hilarious and self-delusional,” said spokesman Eric Phillips in a statement.

Schneiderman then fired back.

“With all due respect, a policy debate over drug law reform is quite a different thing than personal attacks like calling the possible nominee of our party ‘dangerous’ and a ‘liar.’ We hope our colleagues will agree to keep this a civil, policy-oriented discussion,” responded Schneiderman spokesman James Freedland.

The other three playded it pretty straight.

Sean Coffey declined to comment.

Eric Dinallo took the chance to tout his own credentials.

“As the only candidate who’s actually worked in the Attorney General’s office, Eric Dinallo would prefer to talk about his time as Deputy Sheriff of Wall Street under Eliot Spitzer than sign pledges about the controversy surrounding State Senator Schneiderman’s time as Deputy Sheriff of Berkshire County,” said spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua.

And spokesman for Richard Brodsky said the letter was–oddly–sent to the Assemblyman’s legislative office, rather than his campaign office.

“We have no intention on signing this or any pledge of this nature,” said Jon Lipshutz, a spokesman for Brodsky’s campaign. “Our campaign has never engaged in any personal attacks against our opponents nor will we ever.  The people of New York deserve to hear about the issues and how the candidates differ on their vision for the office of Attorney General.”

Here’s Schneiderman’s letter, and–in update from the original post–one from the Rice campaign to Schneiderman, in response:

August 27, 2010

Kathleen Rice
Kathleen Rice 2010
P.O. Box 20956
New York, NY 10129

Dear Ms. Rice,

As Democrats, we all share the same ultimate goal: making sure our party is unified heading into the general election to ensure a Democratic victory in November.

While we may have our differences, they pale in comparison to the ones we have with Republicans like Dan Donovan, who does not support basic rights for New Yorkers like a woman’s right to choose.

Therefore, for the good of the Democratic Party, I am writing to ask that each of you join me in pledging to refrain from negative personal attacks on one another as we enter the final stretch of this primary campaign for Attorney General. Party unity and strength is more important than any one of our individual ambitions, and we owe it to Democrats across the state to ensure that our party will be strong and unified heading into the general election.

We must never lose sight of the fact that we are the party of ideas and principles, and candidates seeking the support of voters in the upcoming September 14th election should make their case based on their record and vision for this office. Voters expect — and deserve — a spirited debate in which we challenge each other on issues and ideas. But engaging in ad hominem character attacks against one another will only undermine our chances to win the general election against a Republican candidate who faces no primary opposition. We must be smart, not destructive.

As a lifelong progressive Democrat, I am deeply committed to making sure there will be a Democratic Attorney General to continue the work of Andrew Cuomo. The people of New York cannot afford to turn back the clock on a woman’s right to choose, hard-won civil rights victories and economic justice for working families. But that is exactly what’s at stake if the Attorney General’s office falls into Republican hands this November.

I urge you to sign this pledge, and commit to joining me in running a positive, issue-based campaign until Election Day. As Democrats, I believe we must stand together in the best interest of the party, and more importantly, in the best interest of people of New York.

Sincerely,
Eric Schneiderman

And the Rice campaign’s letter:

August 27, 2010

State Senator Eric Schneiderman

VIA EMAIL to friends@schneiderman.org

Dear Senator Schneiderman,

As you know, yesterday a question was asked about a part of your past that you and your campaign have characterized in different ways during the course of your bid for attorney general, and that question remains unanswered.

For the benefit of the people you are seeking to represent, we are asking you, once again, to clarify the record and tell the truth:  Have you ever run a drug treatment rehabilitation program?  You have said numerous times that you did, while public records and your own spokesman say otherwise, as chronicled by City Hall News yesterday.

As a candidate for attorney general, you should be held to a higher standard of honesty, transparency and accountability.  We reject your assertion from your letter this morning that questioning of you has been personal.  In fact we are a bit taken aback by the hypocrisy of your letter considering the multipronged attacks your campaign has engaged in throughout its duration, causing many people to define your campaign by its propensity to attack District Attorney Rice rather than talk about you and your record.

We know that you share our belief that attorney general candidates should be held to a higher standard, and repeat our call for you to answer the question posed to you above.  In the meantime, District Attorney Rice will stay the same course as every campaign she has ever run, each time beating tough Republican opponents: an issues-based discussion rooted in sincerity, honesty, transparency and accountability.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Stein

Campaign Manager

Kathleen Rice 2010

Schneiderman's Letter Fails to Civilize AG Race