NEW ALBANY — New Albany's mayoral race is intensifying as Election Day quickly approaches.
On Thursday morning, the Floyd County Democratic Party announced the launch of a website called FactCheckSeabrook.com, which criticizes statements from Republican mayoral candidate Mark Seabrook's campaign regarding Democratic incumbent Mayor Jeff Gahan. Independent candidate Dan Coffey is running against Gahan and Seabrook in November's mayoral election.
Floyd County Democratic Party Chair Adam Dickey said the website was created in response to negative campaign mailers from the Seabrook campaign, saying they provided "false and misleading" statements about the city's financial health. The website rebuts statements he saw on the campaign mailers, he said.
"It’s just a poor, nasty way of campaigning, and it doesn’t reflect what [Gahan’s] vision is for the city, and in contrast, what we’ve done all year long on our side of the aisle is put out the good news about New Albany, the things that are moving forward in the right direction, and it’s just disheartening to see someone put out such negative misleading information and not be held to account for it," he said.
The campaign mailers referred to by Dickey were sent by the Indiana Republican Party, according to Seabrook, and he said "there is nothing in the mailers that's not true." He is critical of the city's spending and financial practices, and he said the website is misleading and "selective about the way they put things" related to the city government and the county commissioners.
"I've been supportive of the community all my life, and I never mislead and lied to anyone as city councilman and commissioner, and everything was done in the open," Seabrook said.
Dickey said "the other side has sunk to a whole new level of distortion," and he said the party felt the need to "set the record straight" through the website.
"The City of New Albany is on good footing both financially as well as in terms of our progress in bringing jobs to our community, helping to restore and preserve historic buildings, keeping our roads in order — we’ve been able to do a number of things with city government, and I think it’s disingenuous on the other side’s standpoint," he said.
The Floyd County Democrat's decision to launch the website was one of "necessity," Dickey said.
"I just think that this is part of a campaign effort — when you have someone attacking you, you can't just sit back and let them get away with that type of behavior — you have to make sure they're called to account," he said.
Floyd County Republican Chairman Shawn Carruthers said he hasn't seen any mailers related to Seabrook's campaign that he would categorize as "negative" campaigning.
"The city is spending money more than they're taking in," he said. "Is that negative, or is that telling the truth? I think that's just telling the truth."
Seabrook denounced the Floyd County Democrat's website's mention of his health — it refers to his resignation from the New Albany City Council in 2001 due to health issues. He stepped down from the council while recovering from the removal of a benign pancreatic tumor, and he was back the next year, he said.
"What I think is that they want to discriminate on people's health," he said. "A lot of people who have illnesses and sicknesses and come back and are perfectly capable and functioning, but apparently the Democrats want to present it as not able to do your job. I was unaware that any of the Democratic officials had medical degrees."
Carruthers said he is disappointed to see the Floyd County Democrats launch the website.
"I hate to see them turn what's been a very informative campaign into a negative campaign coming down to the closing of the race," he said. "I'd like for them to stay on point and provide truthful information, which is what we're doing," he said.