Despite ending campaign, Abrams still on ballot

Seen here during last Monday's League of Women Voters debate, Marc Abrams has pulled the plug on his campaign following allegations of past abuse and harassment. — Ken Borsuk photo

Seen here during last Monday’s League of Women Voters debate, Marc Abrams has pulled the plug on his campaign following allegations of past abuse and harassment. — Ken Borsuk photo

Marc Abrams’ campaign for the state legislature is over, but those interested in voting for him could well still have their chance, because his name will remain on the ballot unless he acts quickly to change that.

Mr. Abrams, who was running as a Democrat in the 149th District, ended his campaign last week after public revelation of sexual harassment complaints made against him and his brother when they ran a hedge fund. Mr. Abrams, who has denied any wrongdoing in the matter, at first vowed to stay in the race against longtime Republican incumbent state Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th) but ultimately bowed to pressure from top state Democrats, including Gov. Dannel Malloy and state Rep. Brendan Sharkey, speaker of the state House.

The decision represented a stunning turn of events for Mr. Abrams, who had been flying high after what his campaign team had seen as a very successful debate last Monday night against Ms. Floren, fueling talk of an unlikely upset in the Republican-heavy district. However, late Wednesday reports began surfacing in the DailyRuctions.com blog about past allegations of misconduct against Mr. Abrams and his brother Russell when they owned a New York hedge fund called Titan Capital Group LLC.

Two employees of the firm, Danielle Pecile and Cristina Culicea, sued Mr. Abrams and his brother in 2010 claiming they had been subject to graphic sexual harassment, discrimination and intense verbal abuse, including physical threats, painting a picture in the allegations of being bullied in the workforce, particularly by Marc Abrams. The complaints alleged that Mr. Abrams had harassed Ms. Pecile and attempted to force her into a romantic relationship.

Both claims were investigated with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and it was determined that violations had not occurred and that Ms. Pecile and Mr. Abrams had been in a consensual relationship that had ended badly. While some sections of the suits have been dismissed, those decisions are being appealed and the cases are still pending. Mr. Abrams had said he felt they would soon be dismissed and he would be exonerated, but as soon as they were revealed, pressure mounted for him to withdraw from the race.

On Friday he did just that. However, he is still technically on the ballot. The deadline passed last week for town Democrats to replace Mr. Abrams on the ballot, and as of Tuesday, Town Clerk Carmella Budkins said that he was still the Democratic candidate for the 149th District. In order for him to withdraw as a candidate, it’s not enough for him to simply say he is ending his campaign. He must also write a formal letter to the state withdrawing as a candidate and the state would then inform the town that he should be removed from the ballot.

Ms. Budkins said time is a pressing issue here since the ballots have to be printed for Election Day on Nov. 4.

“If this is going to happen, then it has to happen really soon,” Ms. Budkins said on Tuesday.

In an interview with the Post on Tuesday, Mr. Abrams said he had no intention of restarting his campaign and that he would write that letter to the state asking that his name be removed from the ballot. He classified his campaign as “terminated” and said this all happened so quickly he was determining the best way to legally end the campaign, since he had qualified for state funding for it.

After the release of the documents, there was an emergency meeting Friday morning between town Democratic officials and Mr. Abrams, and while no decision was made immediately, the campaign was ended a few hours later. A tipping point may well have been an additional email posted on the blog allegedly showing Mr. Abrams losing his temper in a conversation with an architect. That was independent of the allegations but fit what local Republicans had been calling a pattern of behavior from the candidate.

On Friday Mr. Abrams released a statement saying, “No sooner than my campaign began to catch people’s attention did my opponents change the conversation to one that is beneath our community. As to the allegations I will not dignify them other than to say that I have been exonerated by the EEOC and the charges dismissed in federal court. There do remain some claims in the State Court which will also result in my exoneration. While we always knew this was going to be an uphill battle, we never foresaw this level of negative attack possible in our community.”

He added, “I was ready before and ready now to win this election based on the merits. But my first priority is to my family and although they understood these false allegations may be brought up, we never fathomed the level of viciousness. I cannot in good conscience be a part of my family being subjected to this onslaught, and I am therefore withdrawing from the race.”

Mr. Abrams told the Post that he had disclosed to town Democrats before the campaign began that the complaints had been filed and were still pending. He added that he had not kept it a secret and that anyone who Googled his name could have found out about them.

“I’m extremely shocked by this,” Mr. Abrams said. “I had thought that Greenwich politics would not end up being this ugly.”

In a statement released Thursday, Mr. Abrams claimed the issue had been drummed up again now as a political dirty trick. Mr. Abrams did not directly accuse Ms. Floren’s campaign of involvement and several prominent Democrats told the Post this week that they did not believe she was involved, pointing the finger instead at state Republicans focusing on the governor’s race.

“Recent reports about a frivolous lawsuit directed at me and my family represent the lowest point that I can remember in local politics,” Mr. Abrams said in the Thursday statement. “After a disastrous presentation at the debate, supporters of my opponent have brazenly resurrected past Page 6 articles relating to litigation that the Federal Government through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted an extensive nine-month investigation and found to have no basis. This is the kind of dirty trick usually reserved for career politicians desperate to hold on to their seat and afraid to discuss their voting records and inconsistent positions.”

Ms. Floren has emphatically denied any involvement in the matter.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Frank Farricker told the Post on Friday that he had encouraged Mr. Abrams to stay in the race but that he had done what he felt was best for his family and for the Democratic Party as it faces a tough gubernatorial race that could come down to a very narrow margin between Mr. Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley.

“I’m always looking out for the candidates of the party,” Mr. Farricker said when asked if he was disappointed in Mr. Abrams’ decision. “Marc felt this was the best decision for everyone. He’s disappointed that the truth in this matter was not heard and he’s doing what he thinks is in the best interests of his family and the party, and I support him on that.”

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