In the final paces before Tuesday’s special election for state senator, the Republican candidate tied his Democratic opponent to a supporter’s 2010 tax-reform bill and accused his opponent of seeking to “let sexual predators into the women’s room.”
Republican Steven Mullins made those charges against Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield in a flurry of direct-mail pieces, robocalls and TV spots. The two face each other in a special election Tuesday for the 10th District state Senate seat vacated last month by New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.
Even in the annals of last-minute mud-slinging, the charges stood out as explosive. Read further in the story for some fact-checking.
The 10th District covers the western half of New Haven and a slice of West Haven; polls open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. To see if you live in the 10th District, call the Registrar of Voters at (203) 946-8035; Click here to find out where to vote.
Mullins, who like Holder-Winfield qualified for the state’s public-financing program, used much of that money this past weekend to spread the two new attacks.
Let’s take them one by one.
The New “$1,700” Tax
Two separate flyers appeared in district mailboxes Saturday offering different versions of an argument suggesting that electing Holder-Winfield would bring about a new statewide property tax that would sock each voter with $1,700 of new taxes to pay.
The fronts of the flyers show elderly couples receiving this new bill and preparing to lose their homes.
“Married 50 years. Worked a lifetime. LOSING THEIR HOME.” read one of the headlines.
The headline on the other side informs voters: “Hartford politicians want a crippling statewide property tax. And they want Gary Holder-Winfield.”
The robo-calls told voters they needed to elect Mullins to stop the Democrats from raising their taxes $1,700. A TV commercial called on voters to elect him in order to “stop this outrageous statewide property tax” that will cost them $1,700.
“Vote Steve Mullins to STOP the statewide property tax,” read the headline atop the back of the other campaign flyer. The flyer mentions a “pledge” to oppose the tax. It mentions that Mullins is the “only” one of the (two) candidates in the race to sign a “pledge” to oppose the tax.
The flyers don’t actually say that Holder-Winfield has ever supported this proposal. That is accurate. No one has had a chance to vote on this proposal.
No such proposal is before the state legislature. A version was introduced in 2010 by New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney and New Haven state Rep. Juan Candelaria. The bill would have created a statewide property tax “of one to five mills,” then redistributed that money back to local communities. It never made it out of committee. No one has voted on it since.
One of the flyers reproduces that bill; if you look closely enough you find the 2010 date, without a mention that the bill never advanced and hasn’t been revived. Looney and Candelaria both support Holder-Winfield’s candidacy.
Then how did Mullins get to the $1,700 part? By citing a “UCONN study.” A footnote in small type at the bottom of flyer refers to a “Summer 2013: The Connecticut Economy. University of Connecticut.”
That turns out to be the name of a quarterly publication. Read the cited issue here. The issue doesn’t address Looney’s proposal. In an article about different ways of funding education, it makes a passing reference to the impact of a statewide property tax. “Adding a 7.68 state mill rate increases that bill by another $1,615 or 32%,” the reference reads. That’s 7.68 mills, not 1 to 5. And $1,615, not $1,700.
Contacted Sunday night, Mullins said he believes that is indeed the reference. He said the campaign “rounded” the numbers.
Looney said Sunday that even if those numbers were real—even if the proposal still existed—it would never have cost voters in New Haven and West Haven $1,700. The point of the bill was to address the disparities of state’s reliance on property taxes, charging people in wealthy towns less than people in poor communities for similarly priced properties. It would send more money from places like Greenwich to lower-income areas like New Haven and the slice of West Haven in the 10th District. The point of the now non-existent proposal was to lower tax bills in the 10th District, he said.
“What Mullins is basically saying is that he wants to protect taxpayers in Greenwich at the expense of people in New Haven and West Haven,” Looney argued.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Looney said of Mullins’ tax-hike argument. “It’s a completely cynical thing which Republicans often do, to throw out an issue like that to fraudulently represent the position of the other side and hope that people will not be knowledgeable enough in a low-turnout election. A completely fraudulent way to campaign.”
Holder-Winfield said he’d never voted on the proposal. Asked if he’d support it, he said he’d have to examine it first to make sure it would lower tax bills in the district.
Mullins defended the flyers and calls. He said that next year the Democrats could very well raise the proposal again, in a non-election year.
He also noted that the bill did not spell out that local municipalities would have to use any money redistributed form the property tax to lower their own community’s tax bill.
But even if the proposal socked it to Greenwich rather than West Haven and New Haven, it would still end up costing people jobs in the district, Mullins argued. That’s because, he predicted, higher bills in the state will drive business elsewhere in the country, taking jobs and tax revenue with them.
“Even additional taxes on so-called wealthier communities are not going to help the state one bit,” Mullins said. “Business will go to Texas.”
That attack was mild compared to Mullins’ other final-weekend broadside, accusing Holder-Winfield of “twisted priorities.”
“Gary Holder-Winfield’s bill would let sexual predators into the women’s room,” the headline to the flyer reads.
It pictures two young African-American girls while attacking Holder-Winfield for labeling “it a ‘civil right’ for some men to use the same bathroom as women and girls.”
It goes on to accuse him of creating new reasons for people “to worry about perverted sexual predators, pedophiles ... lurking in the women’s room.”
Meanwhile, in one of his TV commercials (click on the video to watch), Mullins speaks of how “as a Christian,” “I don’t know why anyone would want a grown man to use a girls’ bathroom.”
Holder-Winfield led the fight for the bill’s passing in the House of Representatives. “I hope this legislation will help those who have suffered discrimination and give them the chance to live free from fear and intimidation,” he said at the time (as Christine Stuart reported in this article).
Mullins was asked Sunday how Holder-Winfield’s bill led to risks of rape.
“You or I can put on a skirt and a blouse and a wig and go into the girls’ room and get their kicks” at a place like Planet Fitness under this bill, he replied.
Holder-Winfield responded that rape—which can be carried out by members of either sex against members of either sex is already illegal. “If a woman rapes a woman, it’s illegal,” he noted. (Holder-Winfield was sexually abused as a child.)
Holder-Winfield stood by his bill. “We should not discriminate against people because of their gender,” he said. “A transgender female is a female.”
Mullins is correct that supporters called Holder-Winfield’s proposal a civil-rights bill. For years the gay rights movement has met with resistance among some in the African-American church who take umbrage at linking the cause to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Mullins’ placement of African-American girls in the picture is no accident. He has made a point of appealing to voters in New Haven’s black churches during this campaign; the black church has historically taken a conservative stance on gay-rights and transgender proposals. Mullins noted that tradition in a conversation Sunday evening. “I have talked to black people in New Haven churches. They are insulted that he is calling this a civil right. This is not what Dr. King marched for.” Holder-Winfield has from his first run for state office in 2008 aligned himself with gay civil-rights advocates; his campaign in that 2008 state representative election opposed gay marriage, while Holder-Winfield supported it.
“It’s twisted what he’s doing,” Holder-Winfield said of Mullins’ flyer. He’s using a group of people and negative feelings [other] people have against them because they don’t understand them, [in order] to scare the hell out of people.”
As he spoke Sunday, Holder-Winfield was walking the streets of Westville with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy to knock on voters’ doors. Murphy—citing his experience enduring a daily torrent of personal attacks from self-funded multimillionaire Linda McMahon in the 2010 campaign—offered words of solace.
“That stuff doesn’t smell right to people,” Murphy reassured him. “They know there’s not a candidate in the world that supports more rights for sexual predators.”
It’s impressive how low Mullins has sunk. Good old fear-based politics. “If you don’t vote for me, YOUR KIDS WILL BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.”
I mean, I know local politics are ugly, but I am not sure we need to race to the bottom of the cesspool, buddy.
posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 24, 2014 9:20am
Initially I applauded Mullins’ decision to run as an example of why competition is healthy for democracy. But time and again he has proven that he is little more than a partisan mouthpiece who makes wild allegations with no evidence to support his claims. From claims about dead people voting to getting paid to wear a sticker to this latest stunt. Mr. Mullins you sir are utterly pitiful. Especially your attempt to fall upon the sword of religion while simultaneously swearing your allegiance to your party. To play upon ignorance and promote bias against transgendered people is reprehensible. There are enough REALLY issues facing voters in this district that you have failed to acknowledge. What a joke
For a long time, I thought of Gary Holder-Winfield as one of the most principled, dignified and independent members of the state legislature and I admired him greatly. He took a little hit in my eyes when he rolled over so completely after Mayor Harps’ about-face on his candidacy. I understand how politically it made sense and will probably help his career but truth be told, it made it seem that much more likely that he could be bought or bullied into submission.
But Mullins is just a pure embarrassment in this campaign. It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit about Republicans:
Mullins speaks of how “as a Christian,” “I don’t know why anyone would want a grown man to use a girls’ bathroom.”
Mr. Bass, nice job of tracking down that bogus statistic in the UConn publication but you haven’t finished. Can you find the chapter and verse where Jesus weighs in on which bathrooms people can use?
Fortunately or unfortunately, I live about two blocks outside the “small slice” of West Haven that’s in the 10th district (in reality, it’s about a substantial portion of the city and geographically about 1/3 of the total district).
posted by: PH on February 24, 2014 10:21am
Is there a way to claw back public funding for documented cases of slander and misinformation? Mullins should have to shell out of his own pocket to pay for this rubbish. You can smell the desperation right through the computer screen.
posted by: Noteworthy on February 24, 2014 10:27am
1. A state-wide property tax could never be imposed in Greenwich and not New Haven. To say otherwise is a lie and a rather twisted version of the position.
2. In theory, New Haven would get more back than it kicks in, and that “new” money would be used to offset property taxes in New Haven. The theory of “new” money offsetting any of our property taxes has NEVER worked. It is spent just like it is under the dome in Hartford. Mr. Looney knows this.
3. On whether GHW would support such a tax if it came up again - one has to look to his history. GHW has supported every tax increase, including the history making one from Malloy; he supported an expansion of the history making gas tax, the higher and permanent sales tax on our homes; the higher and expanded sales tax on just about everything that is sold in Connecticut and more.
4. Each tax that was supported and ultimately imposed on businesses, on hospitals, on drivers, on buyers of retail goods cost New Haven and West Haven citizens more money.
5. Would he act differently on a new state-wide property tax if it was resurrected again?
posted by: Pat from Westville on February 24, 2014 10:49am
I knew something smelled fishy in the flyers I received about the alleged state property tax (didn’t get the sexual predators flyer, at least not yet).
Not identifying the candidate’s party for starters. The hinting that his opponent was in favor. The appeals to homeowners hoping that the threat of a statewide property tax on top of the city one which might also increase this year with an increase in the mill rate used to calculate the tax might panic people into voting for him.
This is lying, by OMISSION, leaving out all the details, just keeping in enough facts so as not to lie by making up non-existent facts.
I thank the Independent for shining the light on ALL the facts of these two appeals to fear and panic and, in the sexual predator hints, to hate. I might not have otherwise voted Tuesday but now I definitely will—to cast my vote for the candidate I would normally have voted for anyway and against demagoguery (checked the dictionary for spelling and found the definition describes these tactics perfectly.
posted by: nancycy on February 24, 2014 11:04am
I received one of those calls from the Mullin’s campaign about the women’s bathrooms and told the caller that what she said was incomprehensible. She asked if I’d like her to repeat the scripted message. I told her I understood what she alleged but I found it utterly absurd.Talk about dirty tricks!!! I left a message with the Winfield campaign to alert them. I’m sure they received many calls like mine. Thank you NHI for giving me the background on this.
posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on February 24, 2014 11:11am
For those in New Haven who will vote in tomorrow’s special election, this article contains some facts to refute the fear-mongering fiction the Republican candidate has been spreading around the community. Democratic candidiate Gary Holder-Winfield has been accused of supporting a bill allowing male sexual predators to enter women’s bathrooms potentially exposing women to rape and molestation. The Republican candidate has also accused Holder-Winfield of supporting a bill to create a new state tax on property which will increase our taxes and put people at risk of losing their homes. Both charges are bold-faced lies and deceptions designed by a very desperate candidate to scare up some votes from elderly and middle class homeowners, women and Black people. I have received flyers, letters and phone calls from the Mullins campaign promoting these lies. One of my neighbors wrote and circulated a personal letter paid for by the Mullins campaign: “Hartford legislators are pushing for a statewide property tax…” (LIE)! “Steve Mullins is the ONLY candidate in this race who has signed a public pledge to fight this tax.” (Mullins is fighting something that does not exist!) “Steve Mullins is a smart, tough, and honest man.” (Mullins may be smart and tough, but his honsty and integrity are now seriously challenged by the facts presented in this article). Thanks to the NHI for bring clarity to this murky matter
posted by: Mike Slattery on February 24, 2014 11:28am
This article is about bogus claims and straw men. Debating any of Mullins’ provocations about things that didn’t happen is taking his bait. Even if a person’s no.1 priority is no new taxes, that has to shrink when compared to the possibility of Mullins getting elected.
A person who calls a press conference or prints lit to outline fantasies he’s having will not be an effective champion for lower taxes. Yell at Gary instead, he can take it and he’ll listen.
Mullins campaign has reached McMahon territory, relying on made-up emotional triggers designed to spread fear and dread. His campaign from day one sought not to increase his vote, but only to depress GHW’s turnout and hope for a freak win.
If anyone thought of sitting this one out, please reconsider and show up for Gary.
posted by: Billy on February 24, 2014 12:14pm
On the level of satire (and calling out sheer buffoonery), I half expect to see people in mock SEIU, purple and yellow t-shirts at the polls campaigning for Mullins tomorrow…then not being paid by a totally desperate campaign.
On a very serious note, the issue of transgender people being able to use bathrooms, based on their own identification is a very important civil rights issue. Let’s not take Mr. Mullins bait that transgender people are sexual predators…that tired argument has been used to nauseating levels in other contexts, and it’s time and again been proven to be completely false. In Mr. Mullins case, “Christian” translates (as it too often does in American politics) to “close-minded bigot, hiding behind obscure Bible passages, while totally missing the entire point of the Gospels”.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out tomorrow night, Mr. Mullins.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 24, 2014 12:51pm
I like this guys fire.
If Democrats in the 10th Senatorial District can overlook Mullins’ party affiliation, he’ll do well. Unfortunately, for Mr. Mullins, he’s running in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic.
But I like this guy.
Republican candidates have a tendency to believe that the idea of attempting to make their case to Democrats, would be totally ineffectual. I disagree. Homeowners want the same thing everywhere. Lower taxes, clean and safe streets as well as good schools.
Gov. Malloy defeated Tom Foley in an extremely close race. A 3,103 vote margin of victory for Malloy is easily surmountable for Foley should he gain the nomination of his party. In fact, I’m certain that he (Foley) can acquire more than that margin in New Haven alone, above what he received in his last election against Malloy.
If Mr. Mullings continue to take his fight to the voters in Newhallville, he’ll make a surprising show at the polls on election day.
If I were a registered voter in the 10th Senatorial District, I wouldn’t support Holder-Winfield for dog catcher.
posted by: abg22 on February 24, 2014 1:11pm
Worth mentioning that Mullins has been endorsed by the Family Institute of Connecticut, an extreme social-conservative outfit that opposes LGBT rights. Ostensibly that is where Mullins got the idea for the odious “Bathroom Bill” mailer.
posted by: DrHunterSThompson on February 24, 2014 1:43pm
Sadly, another new haven election that will go awry. Voters determined in the mayoral race that an old corrupt candidate is best. In this race, suddenly the choices totally suck.
Just when I was thinking there is hope for change ........
posted by: robn on February 24, 2014 2:39pm
Opposes tax hikes; check. Opposes cronyism; check. Believes transsexuals like to watch kids go potty; wait, what?
I’m beginning to think that GHW recruited Mr. Mullins to portray a living breathing Reichstag fire.
posted by: Eddie on February 24, 2014 3:38pm
I’m really going to enjoy voting for GHW.
posted by: Walt on February 24, 2014 4:15pm
Agree with the objections from the women of course, but for similar reasons, allowing homosexual men to use the men’s room or at least its urinals is just as objectionable isn’t it?
If your metric for fear in public places is the presence of someone who’s turned on by urination, then you should be afraid of people who are turned on by urination; of course that could be anyone…spooky, isn’t it? Just to be safe, you should only pee at home from now on.
posted by: Hill Resident on February 24, 2014 5:38pm
He lies (‘Gary Holders-Winfield’s bill would let sexual predators in women’s bathrooms’)... but you like this guy? He boldly misrepresents facts (‘Mullins is the “only” one of the (two) candidates in the race to sign a “pledge” to oppose the tax’- a tax proposal that does not exist) ... but you like his fire? Really? I hope that you won’t be running for office any time soon.
posted by: jimjoebob on February 24, 2014 5:40pm
I am amazed that there are people in this comment thread who are supporting Mullins. This is the most despicable kind of hate-mongering, and blatantly dishonest on its face. If I were a Republican, I would vote for GHW just out of protest against this. Is this really what the Republican Party has become, even here in New England?
Good question, Walt. In return, I would ask whom you would empower to verify the sexual orientations and proclivities of each person entering a public lavatory—let alone the biological sex as distinct from the outward expression of gender.
posted by: Walt on February 24, 2014 11:16pm
Damned if I know, William .. A quandary
That is why most public places now have installed petitions between stations, I guess, to protect peoples’ privacy.
posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on February 24, 2014 11:31pm
Tonight I received another call from a Steve Mullins campaign worker. When he started to read his transcript about Gary Holder-Winfield supporting a new state property tax, I stopped him abruptly and told him that the facts had come out about the Mullins’ accusations. I said if he could be comfortable spreading the lies of his candidate, that was between him and his conscience. I referred him to this article. I really know nothing about Mullins and his campaign other than his lies, his deception,his attacks and his fear-mongering and hate-mongering. Mullins failed to inform the public about his vision and plans for the district other than keeping sexual predators, pedophiles and rapists out of the women’s room and fighting against a non-existent state property tax bill!. His campaign has been the most inept, poorly run and disorganized campaign I have observed in 60 years! Who advised him? Mr. Jenkins says he likes Mullins’ fire. What fire? New Haveners will have to do more than overlook Mullins’ party affiliation to vote for him. They will have to overlook a meaningless, empty campaign founded on two lies and none of the real issues which concern New Haveners who actually live in New Haven! Mullins’ loss on election day will be a major embarrassment and may set the Republican Party in New Haven back another 60 years! Mr. Jenkins defense of this indefensible campaign defies common sense. Gary Holder-Winfield is not running for dog catcher, but he will become the next State Senator representing the 10th District.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 25, 2014 2:58am
If you’re referring to me, I look forward to you working against me should I decide to run for office again. The difference between you and I, I reveal exactly who I am. You on the other hand hide behind your words by using a fictitious name.
I’m a proud Blue Dog Democrat that calls it only as I see it.
I’m tired of Democrats taking advantage of the poor black and Hispanic voters. In my estimation, a vote is a contract. For years the voters in the Newhallville section of the city have been voting for Democrats only to see their communities suffer and the only time they hear from an elected official is when it’s time for re-election.
Where’s the economic agenda for this community? These voters have been loyal to those who are in office, but those who are in office haven’t been loyal to them. Including the Governor.
I’m on a personal crusade to unmask those who participate in this form of political pretense.
I subscribe to the famous words of the late John Paul Jones, “I’ve just begun to fight.”
posted by: robn on February 25, 2014 8:33am
Walt’s conclusion isn’t reasonable. The FBI recorded 1500 aggravated assaults in CT in 2012. 1:1500 is the same as the ratio of transgender people to the total population of CT. (sources below) In other words, aggravated assault is just as likely to be committed by a straight person as a transgender person.
It was kind of a trick question, Walt. There’s really no way to do that, is there? And the ‘danger’ is non-existent. As you said, most public restrooms have some means of providing individual privacy. And if the mere fact of being in the same room with someone who considers you an object of desire is a problem, you really have no way of controlling that, either. To draw an obvious comparison: there’s plenty of people who have strong sexual attractions to feet, yet in the summertime we don’t segregate them on the street from people wearing sandals.
posted by: Walt on February 25, 2014 9:40am
You protest too much Robn
Whether physically or just mentally, or of the opposite (or same) sex, the unwelcome observance of the sexual apparatus of another person is an attack,
Can’t do much about it in the instance I mentioned, I would agree , but objection to those activities is very reasonable as I see it.
Full disclosure; I’m neither transgender nor into pee.
I am into stats though, and the statistics suggest you have an equal chance of being assaulted by someone that’s either straight or transgender.
P.S. Genitalia aren’t solely “sexual apparatus”.
posted by: Threefifths on February 25, 2014 2:14pm
The difference between these candidates is primarily a matter of semantics. In each case you are getting essentially the same person representing the same economic self interests, the same policies.The Democrats and Republicans are two teams in the same league, serving the same cabal running the corporatist plutocracy. By keeping people focused on rooting for one team or the other, the behind-the-scenes rulers ensure their invisibility and power.We the people must demand Term Limits.Election Recall,IRV and Proportional Representation.
posted by: TheMadcap on February 25, 2014 8:44pm
“the unwelcome observance of the sexual apparatus of another person”
I don’t know what heck you guys are doing in the men’s room, but there’s generally not genital viewing in the women’s bathroom.