Mayor Takes Flak For Attack Ads Targeting His Leading Challenger
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Write
October 19, 2007
I. Charles Mathews reacted sharply Wednesday to the latest attack ad from the campaign of Mayor Eddie A. Perez, saying an oversized postcard recently sent to voters citywide is a blatant attempt to "distort the facts."
"During the primary, Eddie Perez said he was concerned people would only engage in negative attacks and not on substantive issues," Mathews said Thursday. "At that time, I thought he was serious."
"But these attack ads are not just misleading," he said. "They are outright lies."
Mathews, a former city deputy mayor, has emerged as the leading challenger to the incumbent, and the Perez campaign has sought to contrast the mayor's record to Mathews' record while on the city council.
The most recent ad speaks of their records on crime.
"When I. Charles Mathews was in charge, there were twice as many crimes in Hartford as there are today," the ad said. "Don't turn back the clock."
One side of the Perez mailer contains an eerie, blue-tinted picture of what appears to be a burglar shining a flashlight through a chained door. It states that crime in Hartford when Mathews served on city council was twice what it is today - 21,235 crimes in 1991 vs. 10,436 in 2006.
But Mathews said Thursday that the ad, which relies on statistics from the city's police department for the last 25 years, fails to show the true picture.
In fact, crime dropped about 6.5 percent during both of Mathews' terms on council, from 1983 to 1985 and from 1987 to 1991. The average number of policemen on the force was higher when Mathews was in office than it has been under Perez, by more than 70 sworn officers, he said.
Mathews said that crime in Hartford dropped dramatically between 1993 and 2001, when Perez took office, from almost 18,000 incidents to just over 11,000. That dramatic drop was during Mike Peters' tenure as mayor, Mathews said. Since Perez took office, crime has essentially held steady, he said.
"Mayor Perez has had little or no effect on the number of crimes committed in Hartford during his nearly six years in office," Mathews said.
This is the second attack ad Perez has launched at Mathews. The first, a newspaper advertisement that ran in two papers in the city's predominantly black neighborhoods, purported to compare Perez's record to that of Mathews. But the advertisement contained several factual inaccuracies.
Kenny Curran, Perez's campaign manager, defended the most recent ad.
"We feel the voters should have factual information as to the records of those who are running," Curran said. "I. Charles Mathews seems to be upset when anyone talks about his record. And if I was I. Charles Mathews, I would be too."
Not everyone thinks the Perez advertisements are useful for voters, or the best political tactic.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Horton Sheff - who says she will be voting for "Willy Wonka" in November - said Thursday she is "sick" of the attacks.
"Every time I open up my mailbox there is another negative ad," she said. "It's like they are saying everything is I. Charles' fault when he was in office, what, 20 years ago? It was a different world back then. That is apples and oranges. It just confuses the people. Confuses voters, and that is just not right."
And Republican City Councilman Robert Painter said Thursday he has pulled back his public support for Perez because of the negative attacks - particularly the initial newspaper ad against Mathews.
"My public support of the mayor faded with that ad," Painter said. "I wished that the mayor had not gone on attack against any of his opponents' records, and that he would just campaign on his accomplishments."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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