We have known Corey Bearak for a long time. He has been a dedicated community activist involved in countless civic battles. We have not always agreed with him, but we have never doubted the sincerity of his commitment to the people who live in this borough,
So it is with sadness that we watched his fall from grace last week over a piece of campaign literature that was in poor judgment and “bad taste.”
As the campaign manager for state Assemblyman-elect David Weprin, Bearak was responsible for designing and distributing campaign literature attacking Republican Bob Friedrich, who ran against Weprin in a special election two weeks ago.
The literature was designed to portray Friedrich as an “extremist” because of his opposition to “extra-tough criminal penalties” for hate crimes. The literature had an image of two police officers standing behind crime-scene tape with a swastika visible in the center.
Friedrich complained the brochure was mailed four days before the election, giving him no time to mail a response.
It was a cheap shot and backfired. People who have likely never voted for a Republican in their lives were outraged. Within days, Bearak announced he was withdrawing from the Queens Civic Congress. He said he had been planning the resignation for a while. He wanted to spend more time with his wife and children.
No one believes this is why he resigned.
We doubt the literature was responsible for Friedrich’s loss. Weprin did not need this kind of help. The brochure is wrong. One does not have to be an “extremist” to oppose tougher penalties for hate crimes. These laws require jurors to look inside at the mind and motivation of the criminal rather than judging the act. It is dishonest to imply the critics of hate-crime legislation are sympathetic to racists.
That said, we hope this lapse in judgment does not bring an end to Bearak’s involvement in the politics of Queens. We agree with former Community Board 13 Chairman and Queens Civic Congress officer Richard Hellenbrecht, who acknowledged that many community members were upset about the mailing but said Bearak had done “a very good job over the years.”
The mailing was, he said, “in very poor taste.”
©2010 Community News Group
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