It could be a political first: a cartoon attack ad.
The long-shot City Council campaign of Bob Zuckerman released an commercial on Tuesday that mocks his main rivals by depicting them in animated cartoons as they fight for the 39th District seat currently occupied by Councilman Bill DeBlasio.
The ad, which is posted on YouTube, features a particularly nasal version of front-runner Brad Lander and a buck-toothed caricature of Josh Skaller, another leading contender for the Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill seat.
“Josh Skaller said that I said that he sends his kid to private school,” the animated Lander says in an exchange that appeared to be ripped from our pages.
The celluloid Skaller retorts, “Brad Lander said that I said that he said that I send my kid to private school.”
The two also quibble about who actually has former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s endorsement (apparently, they both do).
The minute-long ad does spend the vast majority of its time touting Zuckerman’s “bold ideas” and his “new vision,” including plans for a “green district” along the Gowanus Canal and a shuttle service to cut down on congestion.
It ends with the two anime candidates choking each other over another story first reported by The Brooklyn Paper.
“You photocopied my press release,” Lander says.
“Did not!” Skaller retorts.
In a press release, Zuckerman’s campaign heralded the spot, created by the candidate and Andrew Arnold, a Washington, DC-based political animator, as “the first animated advertisement ever used in a New York City Council race.”
In a subsequent interview, Zuckerman denied that his ad is an attack on his rivals.
“In my humble opinion, this is not a negative ad,” he said. “It’s a lighthearted way of poking fun at what we think are trivialities exchanged between those campaigns. It’s mostly positive about my plans and vision.
“There are no personal attacks here,” he added.
No personal attacks? What else would a reasonable person call mincing cartoon portraits of his fellow office-seekers?
“A personal attack is when you say, ‘You’re a scumbag,’” Zuckerman said. “I showed it to everyone. It’s lighthearted.”
Lander initially said he wouldn’t comment about the ad, and only laughed when asked if he thought the cartoon depiction of himself was accurate.
But later, his campaign issued a statement: “Bob’s ad is funny, but it’s simply not true. Brad Lander is the only candidate in this race with an unmatched record of results and a positive vision for how we can make our communities more affordable, livable and sustainable. That’s why so many community leaders from throughout the 39th district are supporting Brad.”
Skaller’s team also put out a statement: “I commend my opponent for a very funny — and expensive — political ad. Fortunately, many people in the district have met me and know that I could not possibly get two hands around Brad Lander’s neck!
“Humor in politics is often very appropriate. Fortunately, the voters have had numerous opportunities to talk with me and hear my ideas and plans in detail — and they know we are very serious about bringing reforms to City Hall and checking developers-gone-wild. That’s why we are receiving strong support from all over the 39th District.”
In addition to the former Vermont governor, Skaller has been endorsed by Teamsters president James P. Hoffa, the Brooklyn-Queens NOW PAC, and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. Lander recently picked up the endorsement of the New York Times, and has been anointed by Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez and the Freelancers Union. Zuckerman has been endorsed by Rep. Anthony Weiner and many gay and lesbian groups.