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Campaign watchdog group slams both parties in Halfmoon races

Campaign watchdog group slams both parties in Halfmoon races

Halfmoon Republicans released a mailer wrongly characterizing one Democratic opponent as having been

Halfmoon Republicans released a mailer wrongly characterizing one Democratic opponent as having been arrested in a “massive cocaine sting” and another as failing to vote before running for office, Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region concluded.

The panel also faulted the mailer supporting GOP Town Board candidates Jeremy Connors and Daphne Jordan for stating opponent Deana Stephenson tried to “tried to cut a political deal” to serve on the town Ethics Committee. And they cited the Republicans for unfairly stating she “covered up and lied” about running-mate Joe Christopher’s 1995 arrest.

But Fair Campaign Practices also faulted Democrats for crossing the line between facts and unsubstantiated statements. They found a news release issued by the party incorrectly stated every member of the all-Republican Town Board used “tainted” money from prominent developer Bruce Tanski to get elected.

In reviewing the claim, the panel determined funds contributed by Tanski can’t be called tainted unless he stands convicted of a crime. The developer was arraigned on a felony count of offering a false instrument for filing and a number of misdemeanor election law violations in August, but hasn’t been convicted on any of the charges.

Fair Campaign Practices also found no merit to a claim by Connors that a palm card handed out by Stevenson made false characterizations. The card referred to “more arrests and scandals” in the GOP and the party not having just “one bad apple.”

Stephenson and Connors are vying for a three-year seat left vacant when Republican Walt Polak died last summer. Christopher and Jordan are running for a seat left vacant when now-Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner took office in January.

Tom Lundqvist, the Halfmoon Republican Committee’s chairman, said he is still reviewing the release by Fair Campaign Practices and declined comment. Neither Connors or Jordan offered a comment about the finding.

Christopher said he was pleased with the panel’s conclusions, especially after the rhetoric over his arrest almost two decades ago nearly drove him out of the race. Christopher said he was arrested as part of large roundup in 1995 but was never prosecuted.

Specifically, Christopher said he was arrested for innocuous telephone conversations he had with a friend who was later arrested in the case, and an account was published in a local newspaper. Once prosecutors discovered the error, he said the charges against him were quickly scrapped.

“I got a letter in the mail that said the charges are dismissed,” he said.

Christopher, who works as a high school English teacher, initially dropped out of the race when he caught wind of the mailer, in hopes the episode wouldn’t impact his family and career. But his name remained on the ballot and the mailer went out anyway, prompting him to re-enter the race to defend his reputation.

“This was a personal attack that hurt my family and threatened my career,” he said. “The way that they spun it was so hurtful and damaging.”

Stephenson was also pleased with the findings. She said the mailer issued by Republicans shows “poor judgment” and has cemented the campaign as the most venomous she’s ever seen in town.

“Nobody is talking about the issues,” she said. “This political rhetoric is all we’re talking about.”

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