Even after City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) released a statement Friday denouncing anonymous attacks against her Democratic rival, Danny Dromm, Jackson Heights residents protested in front of her office Sunday claiming she refused to speak out against the smear campaign.
“Council member Sears strongly condemns this negative and anonymous type of campaigning,” campaign spokesman Erik Joerss said in a statement sent Friday to Gay City News, two days before the protest in front of Sears’ Jackson Heights office. “She is committed to focusing on the important issues facing the families of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Rego Park.”
Joerss said the Sears campaign sent the statement Saturday, the day before the protest, to the Empire State Pride Agenda.
Dromm campaign spokesman Bryan Collinsworth said neither the organizers of the protest nor the campaign had seen Sears’ public denunciation of the attacks before the demonstration.
“We were not aware of any statement that [the Sears campaign] put out on Friday,” he said. “As far as I know, nothing came out before the protest.”
Last week anonymous mailings were delivered throughout the community and to the offices of TimesLedger Newspapers containing an arrest record for Dromm, an openly gay man.
Dromm was arrested for prostitution in the 1970s after a police officer saw him kissing another man in a car, according to the mailings. He had not yet come out at the time of the arrest.
Dromm has denied ever being a prostitute and said he told the officer he was one because he feared telling the cop he was gay at a time when homosexuals were committed to mental institutions and sometimes beaten by police. He had not yet informed his parents about his sexual orientation.
Collinsworth said the prostitution charge was dropped and that Dromm, who was 16 at the time of the arrest, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $5 fine.
Protesters wanted to make clear they were not accusing Sears of being behind the mailing, but were disturbed by their claims of her not speaking up against it.
“Why isn’t [Sears] doing anything to stop it? Why isn’t she standing up against it?” asked Dromm supporter Larry Menzie. “If she’s such a leader of the community, why doesn’t she put politics aside. How does this help Jackson Heights?”
“This has no place,” said Dromm supporter Andrew Ronan. “We should be talking about politics.”
Dromm backers claimed Sears was the only candidate in the race for her Council seat who had not denounced the mailing as of Sunday even though she had repudiated the attacks Friday. The other contender, Stanley Kalathara, spoke out against it.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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