Ramona Johnson, a Republican and Conservative Party candidate running for 41st Assembly District seat against the 36-year incumbent, Helene Weinstein, has ruffled feathers in the closed Facebook group, “Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn,” with her campaigning tactics, and claims of discrimination. In addition, Johnson threatened to defame Sheepshead Bites for it’s reporting on the confrontation.
Johnson was posting on the page multiple times a day with links regarding her campaign, a rate that is prohibited under the page’s “spam” rules, according to the group’s administrator, Randy Contello. Contello politely asked Johnson to keep the posts to a minimum.
“Please keep the posts to a minimum,” commented Contello on one of Johnson’s posts. “Seeing as only a small part of this group is in the area that you want to rep, posting one or two times a day is not needed.”
Johnson then privately messaged Contello with accusations of him racially profiling her on his page.
“You publicly humiliated me and let folks know you are the all powerful slave master keeping check on me taking away my post and telling me what I can’t do,” Johnson said in a message to Contello. “I am updating the community about my candidacy. I know many of the group members here. I also know you removed me from the group once before. Are you going to continue to harass me?”
Many of the group’s members posted complaints that Johnson was sending friend requests to everyone who belongs to the group, possibly to make it seem like she is gaining supporters.
Contello, who regularly has to ban people from the group for over-posting, or advertising on the page, was understandably distraught.
“The fact that your first comment to me is you think I’m racially profiling you is pathetic. I ban people from the group for that, normally,” replied Contello to Johnson. “I gave you, as a politician, a little extra leeway. I’m insulted that you even think that I’m harassing you.”
Johnson reported Contello with her multiple Facebook accounts, which led to him getting banned for seven days — an automated response by Facebook when a page is reported multiple times, according to Contello.
When Contello came back from his Facebook exile, he posted his correspondence with Johnson to the page for the members to see. The post, with screenshots of the conversation, were flooded with comments of people questioning Johnson’s temperament, and qualifications to hold public office.
“She just blew her own chances of running,” commented one member of the group.
“And this is why Weinstein dominates our area,” commented another group member. “We don’t get anyone even tempered enough to get people to even attempt change.”
The whole confrontation personally affected Contello, his page, and his photography business.
“It kills me because I run the group by leading by example,” said Contello. “I am a photographer and I never post my own page or promote myself, so seeing this happen and then what was said to me — what I was accused of being — hurt. The seven day ban actually affected my business as I couldn’t contact a few potential clients, or message friends easily.”
Contello demanded an apology from the Assembly candidate, but Johnson stuck to her guns when Sheepshead Bites reached out to her for comment.
“I feel like those guys did that because they support Helen Weinstein, and are trying to sabotage my candidacy,” claimed Johnson.
Contello plans to not vote in this race, and stay out of the drama as much as possible.
“He targeted me, he antagonized me,” said Johnson of Contello. “He threatened to ruin me as a candidate.”
Johnson said she has proof of the threats, but would not provide it. She also claimed that Sheepshead Bites is in Weinstein’s pocket.
“Sheepshead Bay Bites [sic] supports Helen Weinstein as a candidate, and is trying to disqualify me as a candidate,” said Johnson, claiming again to have reams of proof that we, as a news organization, support Weinstein, but, again, failed to provide it.
To be clear, Sheepshead Bites is a non-political organization, whose sole objective is to report facts as they happen. We support no political candidate for any race.
“If you run this story, it will look moronic,” warned Johnson, who called this article defamation, and threatened to defame Sheepshead Bites as revenge.
“I’m also going to put out defamation, because you guys support Helen Weinstein,” said Johnson.
Johnson, who graduated Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology, has worked with Women’s Prison Association, the Women’s Press Collective, and Black Veterans for Social Justice in the past. Her Facebook profile includes posts about the goings-on around Sheepshead Bay, posts supporting Donald Trump’s run for president, and anti-Hillary Clinton posts.
“I am analytical, involved with research in communities and social sciences and read current legislation and stay abreast of important legislation and its effect on the quality of life,” Johnson told Kings County Politics of her run for Assembly. “At the end of the day all legislation must improve and not hamper the quality of community member’s lives.”
The 41st Assmebly district covers Flatlands, and parts of Sheepshead Bay. The election is on November 8th.
[Update August 25th 3:31pm]: After realizing the district lines have changed, Contello found out that he is, in fact, part of the 41st Assembly District. However, he will not vote in the race. Changes have been made to reflect this.
[Update August 25th 3:46pm]: Helene Weinstein’s name was previously misspelled. Corrections have been made.