Lander’s Comments Ignite Velazquez, Lee Congressional Race

A political supporter of insurgent Asian-American Congressional candidate Yungman Lee today demanded an apology from City Councilman Brad Lander for saying Lee’s mailings were ‘fueled by scumbags…small-minded, nasty, and funded by dark money’.”

City Council Member Brad Lander
City Council Member Brad Lander

The demand came from Democratic Male District Leader Charles Ragusa (47th AD), who supports Lee in the 7th Congressional District race against 24-year incumbent Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

“Everyone has the right to support who they want,” said Ragusa. “I am demanding Lander give an apology to the Asian community instead of linking them all as bad people with hateful remarks.”

But Lander, who made the comments during a press conference for the re-election of Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, said no apology was needed.

“My comments were not aimed at any real human beings — but at the LLCs, shell corporations, and special interest money paying for anonymous lies and distortions against Congresswoman Velazquez. You can’t apologize to an LLC,” said Lander.

Charlie Ragusa
Charlie Ragusa

Ragusa also lashed out at Velazquez, who was at the press conference, for not setting a good example for the community.

“We can’t go around calling people names and placing labels. Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez simply stood silently next to Lander and did not speak up to correct this.” said Ragusa.

Velazquez spokesperson Bob Liff responded that Lander’s comments were unfortunate but are being purposefully exploited by a desperate campaign.

“Congresswoman Velazquez’s entire career has been about building bridges among diverse communities and standing up for working families,” said Liff.

Lee spokesperson Michael Tobman said he is baffled by the entire incident.

“For the life of me, and we’ve spoken with hundreds of voters in the 7th since Lander’s disgusting and biased comments, I cannot imagine why Ms. Velazquez hasn’t yet denounced him. Decency requires her to do so, and common sense requires it,” said Tobman.

“Mostly we feel bad for Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, who deserves better than the mess Councilman Lander left on her doorstep. It’s naive to think this will just blow over or go away,” he added.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

The dustup sparked a relatively dry race into a brush fire. It also comes as 47th District Assemblyman Bill Colton (Bensonhurst, Bath Beach) became the first elected official in Brooklyn to endorse Lee this week. Ragusa and the female district leader Nancy Tong – the borough’s only Asian-American elected official of any kind – also endorsed Lee.

The 7th Congressional district cuts across Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and includes the borough’s most populous Asian-American neighborhood, Sunset Park, as well as lower Manhattan’s Chinatown. Other Brooklyn neighborhoods in the district include Bushwick, Red Hook, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Greenwood, DUMBO, Cobble Hill and parts of Park Slope.

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