RYE, N.Y. – It’s OK to call the Republican candidate for state senate in the 37th District a slumlord, according to a ruling by the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee.
Conditions and activities in the New York City buildings owned by Bob Cohen, a New Rochelle businessman, have come under fire several times since the late 1990s by city building inspectors for issues such as building disrepair, gambling and drug dealing. Cohen is running opposite George Latimer, a Democratic Assemblyman for the 91st District, for the 37th District seat of retiring state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer.
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee was set up to promote a climate of honest and fair campaigning by candidates. The purpose of the committee is to release its findings regarding complaints to better inform the public on fair or unfair campaigning by candidates.
Cohen filed several complaints with the committee on Oct. 7 and 9, saying a mailer titled “The Truth About Bob Cohen” contained false and misleading statements and failed to reference any sources to qualify statements that dealt with suits brought by New York City's Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations. The committee ruled there was sufficient documentation in the mailer to support the statements made in the mailer.
Based on the information in the mailer, the committee also ruled that there was enough documentation to use the word “slumlord,” a reference Cohen took issue with in a separate complaint.
However, the committee did rule that it was an unfair campaign practice for the mailer to state, “Bob Cohen violated state law.”
Another complaint made by Cohen stated the mailing is “misleading and inaccurate” for depicting a fabrication of an alleged drug deal at one of Cohen’s buildings. The committee found that the depiction was not of any of Cohen’s buildings and was simply campaign rhetoric.
Cohen also complained that the mailings did not state which candidate or committee authorized and paid for the mailer, a requirement of New York State Election Law. The committee found that the campaign mailing does identify the source of the mailing as the New York State Democratic Committee. During the course of the hearing, the Latimer campaign disavowed the mailing.
A new fake Twitter account popped up earlier this month called @itsslumbobcohen or “Slumlord Bob Cohen,” a fake page meant to represent the candidate for the 37th District state Senate seat.
The Twitter page has the tagline, “I’m running for State Senate in Westchester. I’m also running from housing inspectors in NYC,” and links to a 2010 youtube video from the website www.stopbobnow.com when Cohen ran for the seat in 2010, but lost to Oppenheimer.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially endorsed Cohen earlier this week.
The 37th encompasses Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, New Castle, New Rochelle, Scarsdale and White Plains. The hotly contested race is viewed by observers as pivotal in deciding which party controls the state Senate in the next legislative session.