WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- Campaign literature went out in New York's 142nd Assembly District this week tying Republican-endorsed candidate Erik Bohen to controversial former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Bohen said it’s contains both false and misleading information.
"It doesn't directly say I'm a racist but for the average voter, it implies that I'm a racist which is the furthest, furthest from the truth," he said.
The piece calls Paladino a "racist Trumpster" and lists alleged transgressions. It was paid for by NY Forward an independent expenditure committee with ties to New York State United Teachers.
"I've been a teacher for 13 years. I've worked in this community with kids and I'm a coach and all of a sudden all of this outside money is coming after me, who is a teacher and I think it's despicable," Bohen said.
NYSUT's endorsement of the Buffalo public school teacher's opponent, likely has at least something to do with his relationship to Paladino, a vocal critic of the union. Bohen admitted to helping Paladino's school board campaign even though he didn't agree with racially-charged statements he made while a member.
"He is my friend. I do not turn my back on my friends. He will always be my friend. I cannot put the words in his mouth. What he said, I don't condone," Bohen said.
For his part, Burke said he had nothing to do with the mailer.
"I didn't like it, I just thought it was unnecessary and over the top and it was in poor taste," he said.
Paladino, however, is threatening to sue both the candidate and the union for defamation.
"They absolutely know that I had nothing to do with this. They're down. They're not doing well in their campaign and this is a last ditch effort in the last ten or 11 days here to try to get him some traction," Burke said.
He said candidates do deserve to know the connection between Bohen and Paladino, something he says until now his opponent has tried to deny. Bohen said Paladino is supporting him but has not donated significantly to the campaign.
"Not to date he has not," he said. "He came to my first party as a friend. His whole family was here. He came in, gave $30 cash and that is all we have so far from Mr. Paladino."
Burke said his opponents are engaging in typical Republican straw man tactics although Bohen has often reiterated he remains a registered Democrat.