You can’t deny you’re spying when you send the evidence to your opponent.
Last week at a festive gathering of Democratic insiders, Suffern mayor and county executive candidate Dagan LaCorte was schmoozing it up with one of his two primary opponents, former Spring Valley justice David Fried.
When LaCorte finished exchanging niceties with his foe, he made a blunder that won’t soon be forgotten. He sent a text intended for his campaign manager Cristobal Slobodzian to Judge Fried instead.
But this was no ordinary text, you see.
It contained instructions for Slobodzian to spy on Fried and to record their conversation. Slobodzian and Fried had never met, so he intended to use the campaign manager to run a quick “recon” mission and hopefully get Fried to say something politically damaging on tape.
Naturally, when Fried revealed that LaCorte sent him this text–part of which commanded the underling to “spy early” before Orangetown tax receiver candidate Chris Smith blows his cover–it became the talk of Rockland Democratic Party insider circles.
Not too many Democrats have found anything humorous about it. Said fellow county executive candidate Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, “He basically told one of his operatives to secretly record Fried to see if he could say something damaging….I think it’s highly inappropriate to engage in that kind of politics. It’s a kind of dirty politics that I don’t think the people of Rockland will accept. I found the whole thing very disturbing. It was a new low.”
Tax receiver candidate Chris Smith said he was shocked to see his name come up in the text. Smith said, “Well look, when I first saw it I just didn’t understand why I was being outed as someone who was basically being a snitch. I’m neutral in the county executive race. I’m running my own race, I am not getting involved in all this behind the scenes nonsense. It’s unfortunate that people stoop to these sort of behind the scenes conversations. We need to focus, the focus of the county executive should be on fixing the county, not on who is going to rat who out or spying on candidates, trying to get their position. Our county is in a real mess and I want to hear ideas from all candidates. We’re $100 million in debt.”
LaCorte acknowledged to the Rockland County Times that the text was his. For his part, Slobodzian claimed he was unaware of any such text, and the questions from the Rockland County Times were the first he heard of it.
Slobodzian defended LaCorte. He said, “Mayor LaCorte is running a transparent campaign. He is speaking to all the issues facing the county and state. Marriage and desalination are important issues to our voters and we look forward to seeing where our opponents stand on them so the voters can make an informed decision.”
When asked by the Rockland County Times about the sometimes controversial topic of gay marriage, Judge Fried did not have a very controversial response, as LaCorte implied he might. He said, “I support legislation approved by governor and legislature last year — people who wish to marry should be able to. I believe in strong families and I believe in children. As judge I was called on to perform marriages since the change in law and I was proud to do so.”
How did Fried react when he received the text? At first he was a bit shocked but then he said disappointment was the mood.
Said Fried, “My reaction was disappointment. My commitment is to run an ethical, issue-based campaign. The main issue is who puts forth the agenda to be county executive, to solve the financial crisis. I don’t believe in the kind of underhanded tactics that LaCorte used.”
He contined, “It wasn’t funny. The truth is anyone of us can make a mistake, of course. The error of Dagan not using his phone properly, is not the issue. The real issue is the message he gave. Negative, underhanded tactics to win and fulfill his own aspirations. I hope this can be an issues-based campaign where people put forth answers to financial crisis.”
On the other side of the aisle Legislator Ed Day, the GOP candidate, agreed that LaCorte’s spy tactic was too underhanded for his taste.
“It’s a pretty sorry commentary,” said Day. “I don’t find any of it funny. We should be speaking about issues not playing spy with other candidates…I am sure this type of illicit activity will be frowned upon by every fair-minded person in the county.”