Call it the battle of questionable campaign aides. The campaign of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and that of Ken Thompson, the man who beat him in the democratic primary, are trading attacks around claims that each campaign used politically connected operatives with criminal records in their runs.
The 23-year incumbent Hynes lost to former federal prosecutor Thompson by 11 points what was the biggest upset of this year’s primary election. Hynes still held the Republican and Conservative lines in the general election. After initially saying he’d step out gracefully, even personally telling Thompson that he would, he abruptly changed his mind and started campaigning.
He is slated to officially announce what an aide described as an “aggressive and enthusiastic” campaign Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, Thompson on Monday received an endorsement from Senator Charles Schumer, who lauded “Thompson’s commitment to justice, unquestioned integrity and experience protecting the public.”
Over the weekend, Hynes slammed Thompson’s inexperience, and then accused his opponent of having a convicted felon involved in his campaign. “And lying about it,” Hynes declared. “I don’t think the people of Brooklyn want a DA who is beholden to a corrupt machine boss ex-con.” Hynes suggested that this was the reason he decided to contest the general election.
That man is Clarence Norman, the former Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman and state assemblyman who Hynes once supported. But about a decade ago, Hynes launched a multi-year campaign to bring him down, successfully prosecuting him three times, gaining three convictions. The most recent took place in February 2007, when Norman was convicted of grand larceny and extortion for coercing two judicial candidates to hire certain campaign consultant or lose his support.
Thompson’s campaign has repeatedly denied that Norman has been involved in the campaign in any way. (“How do you disprove a lie,” one Thompson operative says.)
“Ken Thompson is the only one still saying Norman wasn’t involved,” said Brad Gerstman, a Hynes campaign spokesman.
Meanwhile, the Thompson campaign has pointed out that one of Hynes’s campaign advisers is himself a convicted felon.
That man is Taharka Robinson, a son of former state Assemblywoman Annette Robinson. As a young man, Robinson served three years in prison for assault and robbery, records show. Robinson also used to be a protege of Norman’s, and got caught up in Hynes’s investigation of the Democratic party boss.
Specifically, Robinson was one of the people Hynes investigated for taking $100,000 in campaign consulting fees from a judicial candidate running unopposed. (Robinson was never charged.)
In sum, Hynes is Norman’s buddy, then investigates him and gets him convicted, then hires a Norman protege to run his campaign who he had previously investigated, then accuses Thompson of hiring Norman. Go it so far?
“This hypocrisy is not surprising,” a Thompson campaign spokesman said.
Gerstman declined to comment on the Robinson charge, saying he was not familiar with it.
If Hynes initially intended not to run a negative campaign, Hynes Deux has gone the other way. Consider this tweet sent out by Gerstman: “Thompson wants to dismantle all the renowned progressive services Hynes for DA started.”
However, Thompson told reporters that he would merely look at the Hynes programs, rather than “dismantling” all of them. Indeed, why would Thompson want to dismantle programs so widely appreciated in the borough?
On Twitter, Gerstman describes himself as a lawyer, lobbyist, politico and best selling author of “What Men Want,” which is subtitled “Three Professional Single Men Reveal to Women What Takes to Make a Man Yours.”
Other Gerstman tweets: “Integrity? Clarence Norman? Come on. Get real.” “Pls Explain how Ken Thompson is real leadership.”
“We need to re-educate the voter,” Gerstman tells the Voice. “The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve seen a large volume of buyer remorse. Thompson has no experience and nothing notable in his career and he’s not qualified to be the top elected official in a borough of 2.5 million people.”
What’s next in this crazy race? Who knows.