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Faux Democrat rails against ‘fake news’

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He says he’s a Democrat, but he’s using a Republican talking point.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights) — who is part of the breakaway bloc the Independent Democratic Conference, which sits across the aisle with the Grand Old Party to give the Republicans a majority in the chamber in exchange for leadership posts and perks — took a page out of President Trump’s playbook when he called out his detractors for perpetuating what he claims is “fake news,” according to his critics.

Volunteers with a group called #NoTrumpDemocrats — a coalition of members with the Working Families Party, NoIDCNYC, United Thru Action, and New York Progressive Action Network — sent out thousands of text messages last weekend as part of a modern-day phone banking campaign to urge voters in districts represented by a member of the eight rogue Democrats, including Hamilton, to oppose them all in the upcoming 2018 Senatorial elections because they vote “in favor of a Republican Majority Leader in Albany.”

A second text then linked to a New York Times article from May highlighting the perks the legislators get to turn their backs on True Blues — more cash and clout up in Albany.

But Hamilton — who according to the Times got a $5,500 raise in his annual stipend when he left the mainline Dems to join the Republicans last year and subsequently became chairman of the powerful Banking Committee — fired back, defending his party affiliation, and seemingly claiming the article is a bunch of baloney.

“Senator Jesse Hamilton is a true Democrat. Don’t believe the fake news and lies. He secured $10 million for immigrants,” the Nov. 18 text said, with a link to Hamilton’s campaign website.

But the lies and hypocrisy are in Hamilton’s own words, since he and his fellow turncoats routinely block Democratoc legislation from passing — or even coming to a vote — with their alignment with the Grand Old Party, not to mention adopting Trump’s own catchphrase to criticize a story that he doesn’t like, said a staffer with the Working Families Party working on the #NoTrumpDemocrats campaign.

“Here’s a shocker, a Trump Democrat uses a Trump excuse to explain his betrayal of working families” said Ava Benezra. “That Sen. Hamilton calls the New York Times ‘fake news’ says a lot about this politics and who he chooses to align with.”

And what’s even more hypocritical is Hamilton’s patting himself on the back for securing funding for immigrant legal services when his turncoat caucus block further immigrant-protecting legislation from passing, said attorney Zellnor Myrie, who is challenging Hamilton for his seat in 2018.

“If Senator Hamilton were a true Democrat, he would not have to use Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ excuse. Instead, he reads right from the Republican playbook, which is appropriate since his allegiance lies with Republicans instead of the residents of the 20th Senate District,” said Myrie. “As the son of immigrants and a lawyer defending them as we speak, the $10 million the IDC secured is welcomed — but you know what would be better? Getting a law on the books that would give every immigrant a lawyer not just this year, but for years to come through the NY Liberty Act. The Senator’s allegiance with the GOP prevents that from happening.”

The response from the Independent Democratic Conference about Hamilton’s use of the president’s preferred media-bashing epithet was to deploy yet another rhetorical device from the Trump toolbox: the “everybody does it” defense.

“It’s grasping at straws to say the use of the term ‘fake news’ is ‘Trumpian’ since it is now part of our lexicon — and a phrase used on both sides of the aisle,” said Candice Giove, a spokeswoman for the group.

• • •

Bay Ridge’s Councilman-elect Justin Brannan has put together a bipartisan, 36-member transition team to help him take on his new role before taking office — and one of the members is Craig Eaton, the former Brooklyn Republican Party chairman and well-known rival of state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), the mentor and boos of Brannan’s Republican opponent John Quaglione. Eaton’s most recent gig was campaign co-chairman for Bob Capano, who ran against Quaglione for the Republican nod, and then ran in the general on the Reform Party line.

Local conspiracy theorists were quick to call out Eaton’s role on the team as suspicious, and even Quaglione — who narrowly lost to Brannan in the general election earlier this month — evoked Capano’s name in alleging that since Eaton had previously helped out the Gristedes supermarket manager, all three of them must have somehow colluded in some sort of deal to make sure Quaglione lost.

“No surprise — your enemy’s enemy is your best friend — can’t wait to see what Capano’s deal is — everyone knew they were in it together ever since the primary ended #dirtypoli­tics,” the two-time Council candidate and former Golden staffer tweeted on Nov. 20.

But Eaton put the kibosh on such theories, saying that he’s honored to help the newly elected pol for the betterment of a community he’s been a part of for more than two decades.

“For over twenty years I have served my community in many roles, and I continue to be an active member of the Bay Ridge community and continue to serve on the boards of many local organizati­ons,” said Eaton, who served on Community Board 10 and the board of St. Anselm’s Youth Activities. “I am disturbed to hear the arguments that my serving on the team is some type of a ‘conspiracy.’ There are many people who have twisted this around and have come up with stories and theories as to why I have accepted this position, and those people really need to focus on what is important in their own lives and let it go.”

Capano said he has no intentions of joining Brannan’s team in an official capacity, but is willing to lend a hand — and suggested that Quaglione needs to take a step back from politics and accept his loss.

“John needs to let his conspiracy theories go. Craig Eaton and I made no deals with Mr. Brannan. As I said throughout the campaign, if I lost I am happy and honored to continue working with an exceptional man in John Catsimatidis,” said Capano. “I had assumed John felt the same about continuing his work with Marty Golden.”

• • •

Bay Ridge Democrats member Andrew Gounardes officially threw his hat into the ring — for the second time — to unseat state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), after toying with the idea last month.

Gounardes joins Bay Ridge journalist Ross Barkan, who already has $16,605 in his campaign coffers since announcing his run in early October, in mounting challenges against the incumbent.

Gounardes, who serves as counsel to Borough President Adams, first tried to oust Golden back in 2012, when he got 28,243 votes to Golden’s 38,584, according to city records.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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