HARTFORD, Conn. – The head of Connecticut's Republican Party has acknowledged a campaign mailer sent by a candidate for state Senate was offensive to Jewish people, but the target of the flyer said he hasn't received an apology.
The mailer, sent to voters in a central Connecticut Senate district from Republican Ed Charamut, of Rocky Hill, includes an image of his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Matthew Lesser, with cash in his hands and a maniacal look on his face. Lesser is Jewish.
Lesser said the image is overtly anti-Semitic. He said he has not been contacted by Charamut or state Republican leaders since the mailing went out.
"I'm not sure if there is anything he could do to undo the hurt that he has inflicted on my family, but also on a like number of people across the district, across the state and across the nation," he said.
Charamut defended the mailer on Tuesday, saying it was only meant to draw a contrast between Lesser and his own fiscal conservatism.
"The mailer makes the point that if elected, Matt Lesser will undoubtedly vote to hike people's taxes again and again," Charamut said in a statement. "Those wishing to portray a graphic illustration as something hateful are completely wrong."
J.R. Romano, the state's Republican Party chairman, issued a statement condemning the mailer, just hours after defending it and accusing Democrats of having "false outrage." He said his change of heart came after discussing the imagery with Jewish friends.
"In a race with a Jewish candidate, this image should be recognized as offensive, raising classic anti-Semitic tropes," he said. "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."
Lesser said it is his understanding that Romano is still supporting Charamut in Tuesday's election and he does not view the statement as an apology.
He said he's not sure what effect the mailer might have on the election.
"My belief is that voters are decent people," he said. "My expectation is that voters will reject this kind of hatred and bigotry and division."
The Anti-Defimation League says the mailing comes amid a rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents, including Saturday's shooting that left 11 people dead and six others wounded inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.