City Council contender Bob Friedrich defended a letter he sent last month as president of the Glen Oaks Village Co-op’s board to the housing community’s tenants after his opponent, state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), accused him of using the co-op’s official letterhead to promote his candidacy.
Friedrich was defeated by Weprin in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary but with the support of the Queens County Republican Party will face off against Weprin in the Nov. 3 general election. The winner of the race will replace Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who lost to Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) in the city comptroller race during the primary.
Dirk McCall, Weprin’s campaign spokesman, said he believed Friedrich should not have sent out a Sept. 22 letter to his co-op’s tenants in which he discussed primary results and the November election.
“When you participate in the city’s campaign finance program, you cannot accept corporate contributions,” McCall said. “A co-op is a corporation under New York state law. Sending out a letter on letterhead is a corporate contribution. The shareholders have been calling us and we share their concerns. [Friedrich] has been saying this was an informational letter, but it looked blatantly political to us.”
But Friedrich defended the letter and called McCall’s criticism “much ado about nothing.”
“This was not a campaign piece,” he said. “It was a perfectly appropriate letter from the president of a co-op to residents. There was nothing saying to vote for Bob Friedrich. This is politics as usual. My opponent will try to stir the pot and create and issue where none exists.”
In the Sept. 22 letter to co-op residents, Friedrich announced a “Bagels with Bob” event for Oct. 24, during which attendees would discuss concerns within the complex’s community.
“This is an opportunity for us to sit and talk about community concerns and issues face to face,” Friedrich wrote.
But Friedrich also wrote “that the race was far from over” in the letter.
“I will be on the ballot in the November 3 general election for City Council,” he wrote.
The letter also discussed his disappointment with voter turnout.
“Although I was able to generate a 25 percent voter turnout in Glen Oaks as compared to a 10 percent citywide total, it was not large enough to win against an incumbent,” he wrote. “I am grateful to the 660 out of the 2,600 eligible Glen Oaks voters who came out to vote, but it was a disappointment. Unfortunately, three out of four eligible voters chose to stay home rather than go to the polls on a beautiful day, which is a sad commentary on the times.”
Friedrich said as president he has insisted on keeping his duties as the co-op board’s president separate from his campaign, such as asking the co-op’s employees not to wear his campaign buttons or place bumper stickers supporting his candidacy on their cars.
On Monday, state Committee member Jack Friedman filed a complaint against Friedrich on the matter with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community News Group
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