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Negative ads, claiming candidates will 'defund the police' draws ire

Posted at 6:25 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 19:54:31-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Voters in midtown Omaha's District 3 have likely received some controversial campaign literature in the mail.

An ad coming from the Omaha Police Officers Association says paints Cammy Watkins, a progressive running for City Council, as a candidate would ‘defund the police’ if elected.

The ad states “In Cammy Watkins Omaha, no one is safe,” with a fiery riot in the background.

Cammy attack 1.jpg

The ads have enraged activists and politicians in Omaha, including state senator Terrell McKinney, who was among several people that called the Omaha Police Union racist on twitter Tuesday evening.

He told 3 News Now the mailers are fear-mongering propaganda.

"Anybody that speaks up and tries to hold police accountable that the Police Officers Association is going to try to do anything to make them look bad, it wasn't surprising,” said McKinney.

Head of the Omaha Police Union Tony Connor responded to McKinney on Twitter and defended the mailers.

“What's racist about the mailer? That's her position and we are simply highlighting it,” said Tony Connor, responding to McKinney on Twitter.

But the candidate who the union is supporting in the District 3 race, Danny Begley, said in a statement, he's run a positive campaign.

“While we did not commission the piece, nor sign off on it, I realize it was done in support of me and I cannot condone negative attacks,” said Begley.

He went on to say he’s committed to the work of repairing the broken relationship with the public and the police.

”The past 24 hours have further highlighted that we have work to do in order to repair and restore the relationship between police and community,” said Begley.

Watkins declined to be interviewed but called it “dirty politics, which is the antithesis of the campaign I am running.”

It's not the only race where we've seen the ads, an ad sent out to voters in the Millard area from Republican city council candidate Don Rowe, targeted his Democratic opponent Patrick Leahy, with the ad saying “Don’t let Omaha become Minneapolis or Portland.”

Another ad got sent out to voters in northwest Omaha by the state GOP, saying city council candidate Sara Kohen's supporters want to defund the police.

In response Kohen says it's a lie meant to distract voters from her opponent’s poor record. She says that she would like to see more accountability, transparency and mental health services.

“I do not support cutting the police budget to achieve these goals; doing so would likely result in cuts to important officer training,” said Kohen.

Despite not condoning the negative ads against his opponent, Begley campaign manager Ben Onnka and his wife and campaign volunteer Crystal Rhoades, who also serves as a Public Service Commissioner, left the campaign Wednesday.

In a candidate forum sponsored by NOISE from November of 2020, Watkins was asked if she would support defunding the police, and she appears to have put a thumbs up to the question.

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