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Pro-Development PAC Donation Causes Bad Blood in 35th District Race

By Janet Upadhye | August 27, 2013 5:27pm | Updated on August 28, 2013 8:45am
 Laurie Cumbo is running for the 35th District City Council seat.
Laurie Cumbo
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FORT GREENE — The battle for Brooklyn's 35th District City Council seat is reaching a boiling point.

Candidate Laurie Cumbo says an endorsement by the developer-backed lobbying group Jobs for New York has left the novice politician with a target on her back.

"I was doing fine before the the Real Estate Board of New York-backed PAC decided to support me," she said. "Now I have become a target for something I have no control over."

The powerful political action committee made up of real estate developers, property owners, banks and insurance companies has spent more than $1.3 million endorsing candidates in 17 local City Council races and intends to "support candidates who would advance a pro-jobs, pro-development agenda similar to Bloomberg’s," according to a New York Times interview with REBNY president Steven Spinola.

Jobs for New York has pumped nearly $80,000 into Cumbo's campaign, and with 14 days left in the race, the group's canvassers are out in force, knocking on doors and passing out flyers in support of their chosen candidate.

But the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts founder wants voters to know she did not ask for the PAC's support, nor does she want it.

Cumbo publicly asked Jobs for New York to "immediately discontinue spending any independent funds in support of [her] campaign."

Cumbo's opponent, Ede Fox, charges that Cumbo's effort is "too little too late." 

"Had it been me, I would have been much more vocal about what JOBS NY has done to undermine local government and the people's voices," Fox said. "Laurie Cumbo has not spoken out enough, and went so far as to say she looks forward to working with various facets of the group."

Jobs for New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But their presence in the neighborhood has left some locals feeling skeptical of Cumbo's denunciation of the PAC.

Still, Cumbo said she will not be beholden to the group's agenda if she is elected.

"My campaign was moving full speed ahead, and we had amassed a grassroots coalition of supporters, raising over $103,000 from 1,000 separate donations," she said. "Now, some of my supporters are beginning to question my integrity and are asking themselves if I am a development candidate, easily bought and sold. I am not."

"This is horrible," Cumbo added. "Their so-called support of my campaign has done more harm than good in the community."

Members of City Council are trying to crack down on corporate and union money flooding local council races, but Jobs for New York maintains that they are "fully complying with city and state campaign finance rules,” according to spokesman Phil Singer.