The mailer sent on behalf of Jack Martins in the last days of his bid for Nassau County executive was awful on several levels, beginning with a race-based appeal to fear.
It was an appeal that Nassau County voters soundly rejected on Tuesday as Democrat Laura Curran defeated Martins. But the mailer remains instructive both to Nassau County voters and voters across the country.
The photo used in the mailer showed three shirtless Latino men covered in tattoos. The headline said “Meet Your New Neighbors.”
The text beneath the headline said Laura Curran “will roll out the welcome mat for violent gangs like MS-13, adding that “Laura Curran: She’s MS-13s choice for County Executive.”
Message: Be afraid, be very afraid.
As proof, the text offered a dash of McCarthyism by stating that Curran was supported by New York City special interest groups who want to make Nassau County a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
The inference is that because the groups support a sanctuary city Curran must also support a sanctuary city or county.
The argument over whether to make Nassau County a sanctuary county is actually a legitimate one.
Martins had attempted to tie the policy to New York City’s big, bad mayor, Bill DeBlasio, but it was actually begun in 1989 under Mayor Ed Koch and continued under Mayor Rudy Giuliani — neither of whom could be confused for bleeding-heart liberals.
DeBlasio under two police chiefs has merely continued the policy of police not asking about the immigration status of people taken into custody, based on the belief that undocumented immigrants are reluctant to report crimes, fires and seek medical attention for fear of being deported.
Given that its crime rate has plunged over the past 20 years and New York City is now considered by many the safest big city in America, this would be an interesting debate to have.
Particularly, when comparing New York City with Nassau County, which is not a sanctuary city and yet, as Martins pointed out, has a serious problem with MS-13.
But Curran was not making this argument.
She said she opposed making Nassau a sanctuary county and would continue the county’s policy toward immigrants.
The mailer was correct that MS-13 is a vicious gang.
Everything else in the ad was false, dishonest and divisive in an increasingly diverse county.
But neither Martins nor the New York Republican State Committee, which paid for the mailer, appeared to be looking for an honest debate about a serious problem. They were looking for votes and thought a race-based message would be an effective way to get them. Which does not say much about how they feel about at least a portion of Nassau County’s voters.
Martins, for his part, defended the mailer’s message.
“This is the MS-13,” he said on the “Brian Lehrer Show.” “This is the face of MS-13. People may feel shocked about it, but this is what is preying on our communities.”
He also faulted Curran for accepting the support of liberal Democratic groups and leaders who support sanctuary cities to protect immigrants from deportation and reject other hardline policies from President Donald Trump and Congress.
That fit a pattern that began long before the mailer.
In August, before either he or Curran had wrapped up the party nominations, Martins questioned whether Curran would oppose the MS-13 street gang or “stand with her radical supporters?”
Martins called on Curran to reject the support of the four groups, which he said opposed “aggressive federal action to arrest the violent criminals responsible for killing children with machetes, knives and clubs, rout out MS-13 and disrupt its criminal enterprise and remove gang members from Long Island communities.”
He then identified the “radical special interest groups” as Make the Road NY, SEIU 32BJ, the Working Families Party and the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Which would seem to make anyone who opposed Trump’s immigration policies a radical extremist.
Martins’ comments came a day after Trump visited Brentwood to tout his immigration enforcement and anti-gang efforts.
That was the speech in which Trump urged police to be less “nice” in arresting immigrant criminal suspects and gang members — sparking applause from police attending the speech and widespread protests from law enforcement officials across the country, including the Suffolk County police chief and the head of Trump’s own Drug Enforcement Agency.
Should we now assume that Trump’s call for police to be less than “nice” in arresting immigrant criminal suspects and gang members was Martins’ opinion as well? We hope not.
We understand that things can get nasty and facts in short supply as contested campaigns come to a close.
But the mailer sent out on Martins’ behalf went well beyond acceptable bounds – even when grading on a curve.
In many of Martins’ releases on MS-13, he was quoted as saying, “We can not afford to sacrifice public safety on the altar of political correctness.”
We were more concerned that Martins sacrificed decency and the truth on the altar of getting elected.
We are grateful for the majority of Nassau County voters who didn’t let that happen.