GOP congresswoman’s campaign says opponent linked to mob

FILE - In this June 10, 2015 file photo, assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol, in Albany, N.Y. Tenney's re-election campaign says her Democratic rival, Democrat Anthony Brindisi, has links to organized crime, and her campaign is warning staffers to be alert to strangers following them or tampering with their locks. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Republican congresswoman Claudia Tenney’s re-election campaign says her Democratic rival has links to organized crime, and it is warning staffers to be alert to strangers following them or tampering with their locks.

Her opponent, state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, has dismissed the accusation as a smear tactic from a failing campaign.

The contentious race is one of the most closely watched in the nation as Democrats look to win the House in November. The upstate district includes the cities of Utica and Binghamton.

A top adviser to the Tenney campaign sent a memo to campaign workers warning that they should avoid going out alone at night and be on the lookout for strange cars.

“Brindisi’s family has used their political connections to get away with violence, intimidation and thuggish behavior for years,” reads the memo, which was first reported by The New York Post.

According to the memo, some campaign workers have reported slashed tires, though the memo offered no connection to Brindisi’s campaign or supporters.

Brindisi’s father is an attorney who decades ago represented individuals linked to organized crime in Utica. The memo cited the elder Brindisi’s legal work as well as a case involving Anthony Brindisi’s brother Andrew, who in 2014 pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, a misdemeanor, after authorities say he struck a pedestrian. He was initially accused of intentionally hitting the man with his vehicle.

Brindisi’s campaign dismissed the memo from the Tenney campaign as a desperate move and an attack on Italian Americans.

“Claudia Tenney’s conspiracy-theory-laced personal rhetoric is a warning to voters worried about their healthcare, Social Security, Medicare and corporate money in politics,” Brindisi said in a statement. “My family will weather this attempt to distract from these critical issues while the voters of this district turn away from these personal and false attacks that improve the lives of no one.”

In response, Tenney’s campaign defended its discussion of Brindisi’s family, noting that the candidate has accepted political contributions from his father and cited him as a mentor.

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