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Amid rising tensions, Charamut apologizes to Lesser for controversial mailer

HARTFORD — A controversial political mailer from the campaign of Republican State Senate Candidate Ed Charamut has gained national press, and opened new wounds.

FOX61 Political Reporter Matt Caron talked to both the man who sent the mailer, and the man it depicted. We spoke to Ed Charamut at his business in Rocky Hill. He didn’t want to go on camera because he said he’s been getting death threats, but he did put out a statement apologizing for what he calls the mailer's “unintended impact.”

“I don’t know whether it’s malevolence or ignorance,” said Rep. Matt Lesser, Democrat for State Senate.

Charamut tried to clarify that today.

“We sincerely apologize to Matt Lesser, the Jewish Community and anyone who found the mailer to be anything other than a depiction of policy differences between the two candidates,” he said.

Voters got the mailer in their mailbox Monday. It’s an altered depiction of Rep. Matt Lesser with a greedy grin clutching hundred-dollar bills.

“Charamut needs to drop out of the race — now,” said Middletown Mayor Dan Drew in a Facebook post.

“That’s for him to decide,” said Lesser.

The mailer is being called anti-Semitic, condemned by Hartford faith leaders like Bishop John Selders, the Pastor of Amistad Church in Hartford.

“So Matt, I’m standing with you on the side of love. This is not partisan for me. This is not left or right or center. This is right and wrong,” he said.

The mailer stands in stark contrast to the man of conscience and integrity Charamut’s daughter paints a picture of in a social media campaign video.

“Think about the person. Their values, what they stand for,” she said. “There’s just so many aspect of my dad's life that I think have prepared him to serve the public well. Because he gets it.”

Charamut said he’s pulled the mailers and if he had to do it all over again, wouldn’t have created it.

“It is deeply hurtful and offensive to me and I would try to express to him just how hurtful it is and to my family. It’s resulted in a lot of painful conversations,” said Lesser.

The mailer comes at a time of deep pain in the Jewish community following the anti-Semitic hate-driven Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

“We have to ask for a much stronger response to this piece of hate mail. The consequences of failing to do that are too clear, this week especially,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Charamut told FOX61 he has no intention to drop out of the race. He said the man who designed the mailer was, himself, Jewish. He released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:

"Yesterday, our campaign found ourselves in unexpected and uncharted territory. A mailer that we approved had a serious unintended consequence. The campaign has been laser focused on Matt Lesser’s record, spending countless hours looking at his voting history and his policies which is what we intended to highlight in the mailer. The entire campaign committee, which includes members of the Jewish community, never discussed or considered Mr. Lesser’s ethnicity, race, religion or any other personal characteristic of Mr. Lesser and it was never our intention for the mailer to be anything more than a reflection of Mr. Lesser’s policy record. However, it is clear now that the imagery could be interpreted as anti-Semitic, and for that we deeply apologize as hate speech of any kind does not belong in our society and especially not in our politics.

Up until election day we will continue to focus on the issues and it is our sincere hope that people will understand that we in no way ever intended for the mailer to be about Mr. Lesser’s religious background. We agree with all those who have spoken out against hate speech and we stand united in that shared vision for our state.
The race for the 9th Senatorial District of Connecticut should be about the policy issues impacting Connecticut. It should not be an attack on anyone’s religious background or their character. It is heartbreaking that the unintended impact of this mailer has garnered national attention because our state is better than that. Ed is not the kind of person who is being depicted by the media and those in the local and national political scene as well as by those who have left threatening remarks and comments. Ed got into the race to be part of “The Change We Need” in Connecticut, and he will continue to fight to do so, as well as fight to eliminate the hatred and division that is being spewed by many.
We sincerely apologize to Matt Lesser, the Jewish Community and anyone who found the mailer to be anything other then a depiction of policy differences between the two candidates."