Brennan ‘infuriated’ by Ciattarelli campaign ad against Murphy

FILE: Katie Brennan, (left), then-chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, listens to a question as she testifies before the Select Oversight Committee at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Trenton, N.J.  (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

FILE: Katie Brennan, (left), then-chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, listens to a question as she testifies before the Select Oversight Committee at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Trenton, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Updated at 3:45 p.m

Katie Brennan, who was at the center of a scandal that rocked the Murphy Administration, is featured on a new ad and website from Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli. To say the least, she doesn’t like it.

“I was infuriated,” she said. “To use me as part of a campaign that I have not only not endorsed but was not asked or warned about is deeply inappropriate.”

The Ciattarelli campaign launched the attack Wednesday against the Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy. Brennan sent a tweet by the afternoon expressing her displeasure.

She said that the Murphy administration and the Legislature has work to do and that everyone, including politicians, should hold each other accountable, “particularly when it’s not convenient or politically expedient.”

Brennan accused Al Alvarez of rape while the two worked on Murphy’s first campaign for governor in 2017. She was a volunteer for the campaign while Alvarez was Latino and Muslim outreach director.

He was later hired as chief of staff of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority when the allegations were made. Alvarez, who ultimately resigned after being told to by a Murphy official, repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He was also never charged with a crime.

The allegations prompted a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers to hold hearings into how Brennan’s claims were handled and an overall look at how the state deals with sexual assault claims.

Brennan left the Murphy administration earlier this year for a job with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In addition to criticizing the ad, she wants to know what plans Ciattarelli or Murphy have for ending gender-based and sexual violence.

“I think that it is an easy choice to try to use me as a political prop or any other individual,” she said. But the hard work is what changes you’re going to make, how you’re going to hold your own people accountable, how are you structuring your campaign.”

In response to the tweet, Stami Williams, a spokeswoman for the Ciattarelli campaign, said Brennan “talked passionately about the importance of being heard and empowering other victims” when she shared her story with the Wall Street Journal and testified before the Legislature.

“It’s an important message and we are committed to ensuring that voters know about Governor Murphy’s abysmal record as it relates to women,” she said, “and how he has allowed them to be so badly mistreated and abused – physically and emotionally – during his time at Goldman Sachs, on his women’s soccer team, during his campaign, in his administration, and at the New Jersey women’s prison.”

Murphy’s handling of Brennan’s situation was raised by Diane Allen, when she was introduced as Ciattarelli’s running mate earlier this month. It was seen as a signal that the pair would use it as a campaign issue.

But the latest strategy appears to have backfired, according to Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

“It’s very difficult for them to leave this spot up that features Katie Brennan when she specifically asked them not to use her image,” he said. “Everyday that they do leave it up is more of a vulnerability for them.”

Rasmussen added that leaving the ad up despite Brennan’s insistence in not wanting to be in it is “a vulnerability they don’t need,” adding that the campaign could have discussed the issue without “invoking somebody who doesn’t want to be invoked.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Brennan left the Murphy administration to work for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. We regret the copy error.

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