For the second time this week, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo lashed out at congressional candidate Domenic Recchia Jr. for using his picture and quotes in campaign literature — this time deeming a mailer “unforgivable.”
“Domenic is a longtime friend, and I don’t think he wanted to wrong me, and I certainly don’t want to hurt him — but this is nonsense that is unacceptable to me,” Mr. Oddo told the Observer in a telephone interview.
Mr. Oddo, a Republican, has made no endorsement in Mr. Recchia’s bid to unseat Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, with whom Mr. Oddo has a deeply strained relationship and about whom he rarely speaks.
So the borough president expressed frustration on his Facebook page earlier this week when the New York State Democratic Committee sent out mail that could make it appear as if Mr. Oddo had endorsed the former Brooklyn councilman — featuring Mr. Oddo’s smiling picture and words of praise he had for Mr. Recchia while they served together in the City Council. But that was nothing compared to Mr. Oddo’s reaction to the state Dems’ latest mailer, a negative ad regarding Hurricane Sandy.
“[I]magine my disbelief when I saw earlier today that the Recchia campaign did what I have deliberately chosen not to do – and mailed a negative campaign piece politicizing Sandy using my name. It blows my mind and makes me angry beyond belief,” Mr. Oddo wrote on his Facebook page. “How does this happen, particularly after my very clear and precise commentary on the previous inappropriate mailing piece? It’s an example of the worst kind of politics — politics I never have been and never will be a part of.”
The Sandy mailer features excerpts from a Staten Island Advance article about a Hurricane Sandy meeting Mr. Oddo held at Borough Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio that Mr. Grimm skipped — a rare moment when Mr. Oddo did criticize Mr. Grimm on the record.
Hurricane Sandy is an issue particularly close to Mr. Oddo, who welled up with emotion this week describing how his former council district was devastated by the storm that killed 23 Staten Islanders.
“It’s insulting to my family name, and I really wish I could go and talk to every single person who gets and receives that mail and say, ‘that’s horse shit.’ And I wish I could go out to every single person who was affected by the storm and may be offended and apologize,” Mr. Oddo told the Observer.
On his Facebook page, Mr. Oddo noted that the ad reflected poorly on those who created it.
“To politicize Sandy in any way, shape or form says all you need to know about the people who created this piece. To have my family name — my father’s name — used in this manner, is insulting, infuriating, and unforgivable,” Mr. Oddo wrote.
There’s no love lost between Mr. Oddo and Mr. Grimm — in part because of a messy primary race for Mr. Oddo’s former council seat the two were on opposite sides of, ultimately won by Mr. Oddo’s protegé Steven Matteo. But Mr. Oddo almost never comments on the congressman. That vow of silence–combined with the references to Sandy and the fact that Mr. Oddo said he’s never used a negative ad himself–made the mailer especially egregious, he told the Observer.
“Despite having some strong sentiments about what transpired between me and Mike Grimm over the last year-and-half, I worked hard not to talk about that publicly, so that it would not distract from our governmental agenda. Add to that that my father, in the last year of his life last year, had to read negative, dishonest attack ads against me and against Steve Matteo, and I resent that — it’s one of the reasons for the state of the relationship between Grimm and me, because of those things,” Mr. Oddo said. “And in one fell swoop, a political campaign violates those three things without my permission?”
Mr. Oddo said his praise for Mr. Recchia is in the public domain and fair game — but said praise for Mr. Recchia funding a Staten Island Head Start program should not be construed as an endorsement. Likewise, he said his criticism of Mr. Grimm over the Sandy roundtable should not have been taken out of context for political purposes.
It would appear that reminders of Mr. Oddo’s past praise are unlikely to help Mr. Recchia anyway at this point — his campaign has been flailing in the wake of a slew of gaffes and poor debate performances. A poll released by Siena College, Capital NY and NY1 today showed Mr. Recchia is trailing Mr. Grimm — who is facing a 20-count federal indictment — by 19 points in the race for the district spanning Staten Island and Brooklyn. The borough’s daily newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, also opted to endorse Mr. Grimm Thursday, despite his legal woes.
Mr. Recchia’s campaign and the New York State Democratic Committee did not respond to requests for comment.
Here’s Mr. Oddo’s full denunciation of the mailing, from his Facebook page:
I have been a candidate in seven campaigns. And I have never used negative or attack pieces. I never had to because I have always had a record on which to run. Imagine that — actually running on your own record. What a concept. Similarly, in the two years since Sandy, I have never politicized Sandy or any of the issues surrounding it because the people affected by it deserve better. Finally, for more than a year I have, almost religiously, refused to comment publicly on Mike Grimm or the congressional race. I have tried to keep all of our time and energy focused on our governmental responsibilities at Borough Hall, and I have painstakingly attempted to avoid allowing any political distractions to take away from that work.
So, imagine my disbelief when I saw earlier today that the Recchia campaign did what I have deliberately chosen not to do – and mailed a negative campaign piece politicizing Sandy using my name. It blows my mind and makes me angry beyond belief. How does this happen, particularly after my very clear and precise commentary on the previous inappropriate mailing piece? It’s an example of the worst kind of politics — politics I never have been and never will be a part of. To politicize Sandy in any way, shape or form says all you need to know about the people who created this piece. To have my family name — my father’s name — used in this manner, is insulting, infuriating, and unforgivable. I denounce this campaign piece and even though I had no knowledge of it or hand in its creation, I apologize for it. God help us on Election Day and beyond, Staten Island.