In the final weekend of a heated campaign for mayor and commissioner, tactics turned dirty and stayed anonymous as a direct mail piece played the race card against the only African American in the race, incumbent Commissioner Rory Hoskins.
Both mayoral candidates — the incumbent, Anthony Calderone, and the challenger Commissioner Marty Tellalian – decried the tone and the tactics. Calderone, who has been strongly at odds with Hoskins and is fronting a slate that does not include the incumbent commissioner, said he had not seen the direct mail flyer. “I’ve never believed in any negative campaigning,” Calderone said.
The two-sided, four-color piece began arriving in Forest Park mail boxes Friday. Clearly an expensive piece to produce, it made false attacks on both Hoskins and Steve Johnsen, another commissioner candidate. Further it claimed to have been sponsored by a group called Citizens United for Forest Park, a variation on the actual group Citizens United in Forest Park. That group’s president, Jerry Webster, posted a comment on the Forest Park Forums web board on Friday protesting the attempt to attribute the negative piece to CuinFP.
The piece also takes out of context quotes from recent Forest Park Review articles and endorsements in its attack on Hoskins.
Calderone and incumbent Commissioner Mark Hosty, who is backed for reelection by the mayor, were both critical of the direct mail piece attacking Hoskins and Johnsen, but each alleged that anonymous negative flyers are being distributed on local car windows that are critical of Calderone and Tom Mannix, a commissioner challenger running with Calderone and Hosty.
The Review has not confirmed the existence of those fliers.
Tellalian, who is running with Hoskins, said, “What I don’t like is it’s anonymous. … It’s so easy to hide behind the cover of anonymity and say whatever regardless of whether it’s true.”
The direct mail flyer accuses Hoskins of wanting “Maywood to annex part of Forest Park.” It features a digitally manipulated image of a Forest-Park-welcome-sign, with the words “Forest Park” crossed out in a graffiti-like style. Instead “Maywood” is branded in the center of the sign.
The anti-Hoskins attack follows a Forest Park Review news story on Hoskins’ proposal that Forest Park join an Enterprise Zone in Maywood in an attempt to revitalize commerce along Roosevelt Road. An Enterprise Zone is a state program that offers businesses incentives to build or redevelop within the confines of the zone. Hoskins could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The same direct mail piece also turns its attack on commissioner candidate Steve Johnsen, a former long-time Forest Park police official. The piece inaccurately states that Johnsen “resigned from the Forest Park Police Force to avoid being fired and stripped of his pension.” In 2009, Johnsen resigned from the police force amid controversial accusations that he did not properly report an arrest. He was never found guilty of any wrongdoing nor was he denied a pension.
Johnsen said he expected the negative campaigning sooner or later, but feels that it will have little impact on him.
“I feel bad for Rory because it’s aimed at him…someone is playing on race here,” he said, in reference to Hoskins being African American and the ad’s mention of Maywood – which is a predominantly black community.
Johnsen said the late-in-the-game flier will probably be ineffectual because “the race thing doesn’t play well anymore.”
In distancing himself from the direct mail attack, Calderone said, “We don’t pay attention to that stuff. … I’ve always made a conscious decision to stay on the high road,” he said.
“I don’t like dirty campaigning,” said Hosty.
Hosty added that Hoskins’ and Tellalian’s supporter’s “were the first to go dirty,” and mentioned that a Calderone staffer informed him of negative flyers aimed at commissioner candidate Tom Mannix and Calderone. Calderone, too, said he heard about the flyers, but neither said they saw them.