By MIKE CHAIKEN
The mayoral election took on a new twist last week when postcards were mailed to some Bristol residents detailing a rash of accusations against incumbent Republican Ken Cockayne. The mailers were met with an immediate response from local Democrats on their Facebook page disowning the mailer.
One of the postcards, sent anonymously features a photograph of Cockayne’s face superimposed upon the image of a naked man. Over that photograph are handwritten scrawls hurling insults and accusations at the mayor. On the back of the card, is a typewritten litany of accusations against the mayor stemming from the accusations of harassment against the mayor earlier this year that led to a censure from the entire city council.
In a second postcard, there is a parody image of an orange Cockayne campaign sign asking the Republican to resign “for corruption and abuse of power.”
In the top corner of the back of the card, the author of the mailer wrote: “This card is an individual effort, not from any political candidate.”
In response to the mailers, Cockayne said in an email, “I am deeply disappointed that once again we have seen my opponents, those who don’t support me, continue to employ negative campaign tactics against me.”
Cockayne added: “Regardless of their blatant hatred, I will continue to run a positive campaign focusing solely on my record of many accomplishments. Such as holding the line on taxes, bringing 700 jobs to Bristol, and finally construction starting at the old Centre Mall property.”
Asked for her view on the mailer, Cockayne’s Democratic opponent Ellen Zoppo Sassu said, “We are confident that no Bristol candidate – Democrat or Republican – is behind any of these actions. The Bristol Democrats would prefer to continue the conversation on issues such as economic revitalization, combating the opioid epidemic, and improving the quality of life in our city.”
The Bristol Democratic Town Committee was quick to disown the mailers on Facebook. “The Bristol Democratic Town Committee is committed to elevating the discourse surrounding our municipal elections. We have learned that a postcard, graphically portraying Mr. Cockayne in a negative light, has been delivered to Bristol residents today. The Bristol DTC and its endorsed candidates do not endorse or support this postcard. We encourage everyone to take the high road. Please do NOT share any images of the postcard on social media.
Dean Kilbourne, the chair of the Democratic Town Committee issued a statement, “As soon as we were made aware of the postcards, we condemned the action. Ellen immediately notified the mayor that she heard they were being mailed. She told him that neither she, any candidates, nor the Democratic Town Committee had any knowledge of, condoned or supported the mailing. At the same time, I telephoned Jeff Caggiano, chairman of the Republican Town Committee and relayed the same information. It has also been posted on the Democrats’ social media sites that we condemn this anonymous mailing and ask any of our supporters who receive the cards to not share and immediately discard. We are opposed to these distractions.
Kilbourne added, “Anybody who has heard our candidates speak at the NAACP forum, senior center meet and greet, or at various other functions know we are focused on the issues and we are willing to talk about our differences on the issues and our vision for the city anytime, anywhere.”
In response to the mailer, the GOP’s Caggiano said, “Unfortunately, in my short tenure as RTC Chair, this is not the first time Republicans in Bristol have been the subject of personal attacks.”
Caggiano added, “It is disappointing that the DTC and Democratic Candidates called attention to the mailer on their social media page amplifying the attack… Perhaps that was for political gain, or to avoid a discussion on policies and platforms that have made Bristol stronger? In any case, the RTC and its candidates hope to focus the discussion on issues that will keep Bristol moving in the right direction.”
The typography, tone, and list of complaints—and the anonymity— of the mailers are similar to an anonymous letter mailed to The Observer earlier this year before either Zoppo-Sassu or Cockayne had stepped forward to run for this November’s election.