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Storobin says Fidler should play fair — even when his campaign volunteers won’t

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Republicans hoping to get a foothold in southern Brooklyn want Democrats to stop playing dirty, but they can’t seem to prevent their own volunteers from shooting off biased insults at public events.

GOP state senate candidate David Storobin was questioning opponent Councilman Lew Fidler’s integrity at a Valentine’s Day press conference on Ocean Parkway — standing in front of a sign that read “character counts” — when one of his campaign volunteers jeered a heckler — calling the man “a homosexual.”

The volunteer, Gregory Vaksman, apologized for his comments following a heated back and forth with the heckler, but the interaction did little to support Storobin’s claims that Fidler should be vilified for accusing the young attorney of having ties to neo-Nazi groups.

Storobin initially said Vaksman wasn’t connected to his campaign, then admitted later that he was a volunteer and was shocked at what his supporter said.

“I condemned those inappropriate remarks immediately,” Storobin explained, claiming that he’s asked Vaksman not to attend any future press events. Vaksman is still allowed to help the campaign, however.

Storobin also said that the heckler, Benjamin Schaeffer, was working with the Fidler campaign and was ordered to disrupt the event.

“This is old-school, dirty Brooklyn Democrat machine-style politics, and it should be denounced and immediately discontinued by my opponent’s campaign,” he said.

But this wasn’t Storobin’s first attack against Fidler: during the gathering outside the Brighton Beach Jewish Center, Storobin claimed that Fidler (D–Marine Park) abuses parking privileges at Borough Hall and accepted matching campaign finance funds in 2009 when his opponent in the race had less than $700 in private contributions — allegations that had been reported before. He also claimed that Fidler is affiliated with the company Law Cash — which Storobin claims engages in predatory lending practices — and that Fidler has “given and taken” campaign money from disgraced state Sen. Carl Kruger, the former holder of the seat the two men are fighting over. The seat came up for grabs when Kruger pleaded guilty to taking up to $1 million in bribes from deep pocketed lobbyists and developers.

“Mr. Fidler tried to make my character an issue in this campaign,” said Storobin. “He was right about one thing. Character does matter in this race, but it is not my character that is at issue in this election — it is Mr. Fidler’s.”

This was the second time Storobin lashed out against Fidler’s claims that the young attorney had ties to “skinheads, neo-Nazis and white supremacis­ts.” Fidler was caught on video making the allegation, claiming that articles Storobin had written on the Global Politician, a web magazine, ended up on white supremacist web sites. Those articles were pulled from the Global Politician when Storobin announced his candidacy, although the Republican said he had nothing to do with that decision.

Fidler’s campaign would not respond to Storobin’s allegations, but merely chided the Republican candidate for making the neo-Nazi remark — which the councilman has rescinded, but not apologized for — the center piece of his campaign.

“For 14 straight days, Mr. Storobin has done nothing other than talk about a perceived insult he created in his own head,” said Jennifer Krinsky, a spokeswoman for Fidler’s campaign. “[He] has erratically engaged in nothing other than false and malicious attacks on Lew Fidler’s words and record.”

Storobin, conversely, is leveling the same accusation at Fidler.

“[Fidler has] spread false and untrue rumors about me,” said Storobin. “That’s [been his] campaign strategy from the beginning, not to discuss issues. [All he has done] is and has been to attack my character.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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