HARTFORD, CT — Rep. Matt Lesser, who is running for the state Senate seat, knew there would be attack ads and nasty mailings distorting his voting history. But he was not prepared for the mailer that came from Edward Charamut, his Republican opponent.

The mailer shows a distorted image of Lesser holding five hundred dollar bills in his hand. Above the image it says “Less for Seniors. That’s Matt Lesser.”

At least two elected Republicans in Middletown have publicly criticized the mailer and called it unacceptable. 

Christopher Sugar, a Republican member of the Middletown Board of Education, posted a picture of the mailer on his Facebook Page and said, “Even if the slaughter of 11 innocent people didn’t occur this weekend this type of political ad is not acceptable.”

Philip Pessina, a Republican on the Middletown City Council called the mailer “totally unacceptable” and added that it shows how divisive politics are today. “I am not happy nor supporting of this type of behaviors!” [sic]

Charamut did not return several calls today requesting comment.

“It’s astonishing, even in this environment,” Lesser, who is Jewish, said Tuesday.

“On Sunday, the community rallied together with a candlelight vigil to stand against hatred and anti-Semitism after the horrific events in Pittsburgh. My wife, who grew up four blocks from Tree of Life synagogue, is profiled in this morning’s Middletown Press. And then to come home to this,” Lesser said. “It’s resulted in difficult conversations about anti-Semitism with my family and my neighbors. I am comforted by support I have received from Christian pastors and lay leaders and from Republican officeholders who are horrified by Mr. Charamut’s poor judgment. This is an important moment for our country to ask who we are and what we stand for.”

The Middletown Press
Image compiled from today’s Middletown Press front page (The Middletown Press)

Democrats rushed to Lesser’s defense on social media sharing the image.

“This mailer is anti-Semitic and is nearly identical to some of the most vile propaganda that’s been produced throughout history,” Middletown Mayor Dan Drew said in a Facebook post.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said that at the end of the day, “Lesser doesn’t want to own up to the fact that he raised taxes.”

Romano said the mailer simply calls out Lesser for raising taxes as a state representative.

“This kid has his entire career labeled Republicans things they are not,” Romano said. “And it’s all because he doesn’t want to answer for the fact that he has raised taxes.”

But others who live in the 9th Senate District saw it as a “dog whistle.”

“My thoughts on an ugly turn of events in the race for the 9th Senate District as an offensive, gross and extremely poorly timed dog-whistle attack ad targeting Matt Lesser for State Senate hit mailboxes in Rocky Hill today,” Chris Duff, a Rocky Hill Democrat, said. “I’m disappointed in my fellow Rocky Hill Town Council member Edward Charamut for personally approving the ad as part of his campaign. It is difficult to reconcile the content of the ad with the person I have worked with these past many years. We must send a message that attacks based on religious affiliation do not belong anywhere near Rocky Hill politics or in our own town culture.”

Romano Walks Back Statement

The Connecticut Republican Party released the following statement from Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano about 6 p.m. Tuesday regarding the mailer:

“I had the opportunity to discuss some of the context of the recent mailer sent by candidate Ed Charamut involving State Representative Matt Lesser. Several things have come into perspective from conversations with Jewish friends, including Jewish Republicans. In a race with a Jewish candidate, this image should be recognized as offensive, raising classic anti-Semitic tropes. It cannot be justified. I personally would not have approved this mailer, and I am grateful that the party did not approve it. I have requested to sit down with the ADL to broaden my understanding of and sensitivity to anti-Semitism.”