President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has landed right in the middle of the Republican primary race between Congressmember Dan Donovan and rival Michael Grimm.
Donovan has been hit with a torrent of criticism over a controversial mailing his campaign sent out this week to Republicans in the 11th Congressional District (Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) expressing support for the border wall.
The campaign literature, which was meant to highlight what Donovan claims is his strong support for secure borders, contains an image of an X-sign and police badge placed over another image of a woman and young children running, presumably across the border.
Grimm and local Democratic activists blasted Donovan, albeit for different reasons.
Democrats charged that the image of the woman running with children in tow sends a hateful message about immigration.
Mallory McMahon, a co-founder of the grass-roots group Fight Back Bay Ridge, predicted that the mailing would make voters see Donovan in a negative light. “Will @RepDanDonovan apologize for this racist, offensive image targeting women and children?” she wrote on Twitter.
Max Rose, one of six Democrats running in the Democratic Primary for the right to face either Donovan or Grimm in the Nov. 6 general election, also expressed his disgust. He charged that the mailing contains “hateful imagery” and added that the congressional district needs “new leaders who campaign on hope and ideas, not fear and hate.”
Grimm, on the other hand, accused Donovan of taking credit for positions he doesn’t actually hold.
“To compensate for his record supporting amnesty and Sanctuary Cities, Dan Donovan has now decided to make a mockery of President Trump’s common-sense policies. Donovan’s desperate, hypocritical messaging makes him look ridiculous while playing into the Left’s worst stereotypes of the America First agenda President Trump and I believe in,” Grimm said.
Donovan’s campaign is defending the controversial mailing.
His campaign spokesperson, Jessica Proud, confirmed that the campaign did indeed send out the literature. “It did go out from the campaign,” she told this newspaper via email on Wednesday.
But Proud disputed the contention that the image of the woman and children is racist or hateful.
“The graphic is an exact replica of the government’s warning border crossing signs. Years of illegal border crossings became so prolific they needed road signs urging caution,” she said.
Proud shared a link to a Google Images page containing several pictures of border crossing signs with images similar to the one in the Donovan campaign mailing.
Proud also noted that Grimm had joined Democrats in criticizing Donovan.
“It’s not surprising Michael Grimm is joining with the Democrats given his vote against increased border security and for Obama’s Executive Order on amnesty,” she said, referring to votes Grimm cast when he served in Congress from 2010 to 2015.
Grimm, who resigned from the House of Representatives in early 2015 after pleading guilty to federal tax fraud charges, is running to recapture his old seat.
Donovan won the seat in a special election in 2015 and was re-elected in 2016.
The primary contest between Donovan and Grimm is seen as one of the hottest races in the country with both men seeking to align themselves with Donald Trump, who remains enormously popular with Republicans in the congressional district.
The Republican and Democratic primaries will take place on June 26.