(11 AM) Reed Accuses Mitrano Backers Of Harassment; County Dem Chairman Responds

Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano

The race for the 23rd Congressional District in Congress between incumbent Rep. Tom Reed and his Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano has taken a significantly negative turn between the campaigns and its staff.

Reed, R-Corning, accused the Mitrano camp and her backers of threatening, harassing and insulting his staff following a “Unity Rally” held for Mitrano last week in Olean. The event was organized by NY23 United, described as a coalition of more than 30 grassroots activist groups — including Citizens for a Better Southern Tier — from across the congressional district.

In a statement, Reed claims his staff was specifically targeted at and following the rally, held at Lincoln Park.

“As an elected official, I have come to accept all that goes with it. That unfortunately includes unfair, baseless personal attacks against me and my family,” Reed said. “But to harass and threaten members of my staff is completely unacceptable. These actions are cruel, petty, and concerning, and reflect the extremism of our opposition. Such extremism must end.”

Included in Reed’s press release were screenshots taken from Facebook showing some of the messages that targeted his staff. It wasn’t specified where the messages were taken from.

Nick Weinstein, Reed’s campaign manager, said he was surprised to see the “hateful rhetoric” that followed an event billed as unity rally.

“When my colleagues and I attend events, we are courteous even if we fundamentally disagree,” Weinstein said. “We will continue to respectfully engage on the issues and look forward to working every day to earn the support of every voter in the 23rd Congressional District.”

Weinstein told The Post-Journal he simply went to the rally to film those who spoke. He said he did not go to incite any reaction from the crowd and didn’t publicly announce he was there.

“This was the first time I have ever experience this kind of harassment online,” Weinstein said. “This campaign has been unique.”

Mitrano received the Democratic nomination after absentee ballots helped her defeat Max Della Pia, who held a slim lead after the June 26 primary election. Mitrano did not immediately return a call for comment regarding the rally or issues brought up by Reed.

However, Norm Green, Chautauqua County Democratic chairman and county Democratic Election Commissioner, called Weinstein the “harasser-in-chief” and questioned the tactics taken by Reed’s staff by attending the rally for Mitrano, who was present and spoke at the event.

“Those of us involved in politics in the Southern Tier know Weinstein as the harasser-in-chief,” Green said in a statement sent to local media.

Green said Weinstein has “arrogantly” attempted to enter a Democratic county dinner in Dunkirk and a straw poll the Democratic party sponsored recently in Randolph. He said Weinstein and others of Reed’s staff did not identify themselves and and attempted to sneak into private buildings where Democratic candidates would be speaking in a lead up to the primary election.

“Weinstein was asked to leave both times and verbally resisted, but eventually did leave,” Green said. “His sole purpose as the Reed man on the scene was to harass Democratic candidates on behalf of the incumbent Congressman.”

Green said Weinstein circulated and filed an Opportunity to Ballot petition for the Women’s Equality Party endorsement for Mitrano. In filing the petition, Green said Reed’s campaign staff also mailed a letter to all members of the Women’s Equality Party asking them to write-in Reed or any of the Democrats running against Mitrano.

“The silly filing cost taxpayers across the district thousands of dollars in county government election expenses and in the end Tracy Mitrano received all of the votes,” Green said. “The purpose of Weinstein and Reed? Harass the voters. It has to be a historic first for any candidate to send out a mailer that says vote for me or anyone else.”

This isn’t the first time Reed has squabbled with activist groups backing Mitrano leading up to the Nov. 6 general election. Earlier this month, the Reed campaign accused a member of a liberal activist group that has targeted Reed of stealing yard signs. Reed’s staff inserted tracking devices into the signs, which lead to a petit larceny charge against Gary McCaslin of the Citizens for a Better Southern Tier group.

The incident spurred national news coverage — most notably on Fox News — after video of Weinstein confronting McCaslin over the theft was posted.

See tomorrow’s edition of The Post-Journal for complete coverage.