A Long Island mayoral candidate is claiming to have the biggest endorsement a Democratic candidate could hope for, but his opponent and the White House are both saying, "Not so fast." News 4 Long Island reporter Greg Cergol has more from Freeport.
A mayor up for re-election in a Long Island town has refused to stop distributing a campaign flier that shows his photo alongside an image of President Barack Obama, even though Democratic Party officials say there has been no endorsement.
Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick says the flier doesn't specifically say the president endorsed him.
"On here, it says the president has supported the mayor, not endorse," said Hardwick.
Hardwick's critics, including his opponent for mayor, have charged that the imagery and semantics of the flier are misleading in a village that voted overwhelmingly for Obama last November.
"I was appalled he would do something like this and try to dupe the residents of Freeport to make them believe he was endorsed by the president," said Robert Kennedy, a Freeport village trustee now challenging Hardwick for mayor.
"It's a disgrace," he said.
Kennedy and Hardwick were Democratic running mates four years ago, but Kennedy said policy differences with the mayor led him to form a new party, the Unity Home Rule party, and mount a campaign against Hardwick.
According to Hardwick, the flier is not meant to deceive voters and, in his words, has been "blown out of proportion" by his opposition.
"We know other ads have been put out with the president's image and no one has gone after them," Hardwick said.
In a statement, the Democratic National Committee said: "The president has not endorsed Mayor Hardwick and to suggest otherwise is false."
In similar cases, a DNC spokesman said, the committee has suggested that candidates refrain from distributing such campaign material.
Hardwick's campaign, however, continues to distribute this flier as it mounts a final push before Tuesday's mayoral election.
NBC 4 New York showed an image of the flier to people along Merrick Road in Freeport. The reaction from voters was mixed.
"The president shouldn't be standing with the mayor because that's what people will think, that he's endorsing him," said Lori Marmo.
Linda Lauterman, a Hardwick supporter, said she didn't believe he would make anything up.