The race for New York’s 23rd Congressional District turned to mudslinging last week as incumbent Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) accused his opponent, Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95, of running an “anti-police campaign,” despite Mitrano’s multiple assertions that she is a supporter of law enforcement and against defunding the police.
This is the second election where Mitrano and Reed are facing off for the western New York congressional seat. The change in tone comes as protests against police violence and, this weekend, protests in support of police, sweep Ithaca.
The accusation came after revelations that an organizer with the Mitrano campaign posted the following on Instagram: “Fuck Tom Reed, fuck cops, fuck capitalism, fuck Trump.” Reed campaign communications director Abbey Daugherty called the comments “hateful and offensive” and claimed them as proof that “what truly motivates Mitrano [is] … a hatred of our law enforcement community and our capitalist system.”
Mitrano said that she only met the organizer once and that “the statements made in the post do not in any way represent me or my values,” in an Oct. 19 press release. As soon as her campaign manager alerted her to the post, Mitrano gave the organizer “30 seconds to resign or she’s fired.”
At his Oct. 19 “Law and Order Press Conference,” Reed said that letting the organizer resign rather than firing her was “troublesome” and “unacceptable.”
The increasingly negative tone of what was generally a courteous four years of campaigning is off-putting to Mitrano: “Is that how I want to spend this time? Absolutely not,” she told The Sun.
“This campaign has always been about what I can do for the people of this district,” Mitrano continued. “I would much rather spend time making the case that the people of this district have been ill-served for 10 years.”
Reed has also taken issue with tweets posted by Callie Rice Wine, a political strategist working with Mandate Media, a company contracted by the Mitrano campaign. Wine tweeted the hashtags “#ACAB,” “#DefundPolice,” “#AbolishThePolice” and wrote in her Twitter bio that she was “radicalizing your mom into ‘joining’ antifa.” Reed characterized this as “extremist behavior.”
Matt Coker, a senior advisor with Reed’s campaign, said Wine’s comments were evidence of a “consistent pattern of anti-police rhetoric and policy positions by Tracy Mitrano” and unsurprising considering what he claimed is her “close association with radicals.”
The Congressman has referred to Wine as “Tracy Mitrano’s senior political strategist,” but the Mitrano campaign said Wine didn’t even work for them.
“[Wine] handles bulk email for Mandate Media, one of many contractors used by the Mitrano campaign.” Indeed, Wine’s website lists her as working for 12 campaigns across 8 states.
After learning of Wine’s social media posts, Mitrano campaign spokeswoman Claudia Wheatley said the campaign “demanded that she be taken off the campaign’s Mandate Media account, and Mandate Media complied,” in an Oct. 19 press release. As of Oct. 22, Wine’s website reflects this and contains no mention of the Mitrano campaign. Wine did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Reed ascribed a broader anti-police attitude to Mitrano in a recent pair of ads featuring the slogan, “Tracy Mitrano Wants To Defund Our Police.” The ad sparked legal backlash from the Mitrano campaign, which sent a cease and desist letter demanding the ads be pulled.
As of an Oct. 15 Mitrano campaign press release, Reed had yet to pull the advertisements. The Mitrano campaign then sent cease and desist letters, “on grounds of defamation of character,” to television stations showing the advertisement, and filed formal complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Federal Communications Commission.
Mitrano’s support of the 2020 Justice in Policing Act drew sharp criticism from Reed, who voted against the bill. The bill repeals the “qualified immunity” legal doctrine which, according to Reed, protects law enforcement’s ability to “do their job… and keep us safe.”
Mitrano maintains that she “support[s] funding law enforcement,” and defended her record in the Oct. 19 press release: “My entire family is dedicated to the military and law enforcement work.”
“What Tom Reed is trying to do is turn it into a zero-sum game,” Mitrano continued. “[In his view] either you support the police, in which case you are against fairness, justice and peace, or you support fairness, justice and peace, which puts you against law enforcement.”
Yet Reed has insisted that Mitrano is for defunding the police, as she received the endorsement and ballot line of the Working Families Party, a non-major political party that champions progressive ideas, including defunding the police.
On an Oct 22 press call, Mitrano said she disagreed with the WFP’s position, but found it “immaterial” to her position.
“Just because one is endorsed by a party, there is no rule … that the candidate has to ascribe to any position that party takes,” Mitrano said. Mitrano went further, saying that if there were such a rule, she wouldn’t want any party’s endorsement — “I’m not a cookie cutter Democrat.”
Mitrano said the decision to accept the WFP endorsement was a tactical one: “When a voter goes in to vote and looks at a ballot, the more lines you’re on, the better.” The Working Families Party did not respond to a request for comment.
And Mitrano claimed Reed’s campaign actually tried to prevent her from getting the WFP ballot line. Mitrano told The Sun that the Reed campaign challenged three signatures on their petition to be on the party’s ballot line, which, if thrown out, would have made their petition short of the minimum requirement. New York State’s Supreme Court dismissed the case, she said.
Both candidates are quick to claim the law enforcement mantle. Mitrano, in an Oct 19 press release, said she “support[s] law enforcement” but adds that it’s not a “zero-sum game” — for her, supporting police and supporting “fairness, justice and peace,” go hand in hand. Reed had a simpler answer: he says he’s “standing with [law enforcement]” and characterizes Mitrano’s answers on the subject as “anti-police.”
However, Reed stands by his characterization of Mitrano’s views: “There can’t be a further contrast between myself and my opponent.” His campaign did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
His strategy is reaping rewards. On the heels of the aforementioned anti-police allegations against the Mitrano campaign, Rep. Reed was endorsed by the Police Conference of New York.
The two are set to debate Tuesday at 7 p.m. on NBC affiliate WETM.