NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A candidate in a local political race says his opponent has crossed a line by linking him to neo-Nazis. The angry exchange took place in the Brooklyn district vacated by disgraced State Sen. Carl Kruger.

Republican David Storobin, a lawyer, and Jewish supporters are demanding that Democrat Lew Fidler, a veteran City Council member, apologize for saying Storobin was “embarrassed by his ties to skinheads and neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups.”

Years ago, Storobin interviewed controversial figures, including Jim Gilchrist of the anti-immigrant “Minuteman movement.”  The articles Storobin posted were then picked up on white power web sites such as “Stormfront,” CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

“I was a journalist and as a journalist, it was my job to interview people,” Storobin said.

Storobin said it’s ridiculous to link an observant Jew to neo-Nazis.

“All four of my grandparents — all four of them — had their families wiped out during the Holocaust,” Storobin said.

But the Fidler campaign isn’t backing down, saying “Be honest about your Internet ranting. Why did they end up on white supremacist websites? Come clean, Mr. Storobin.”

The controversy was the opening salvo in the fight over the Senate seat vacated by the disgraced Kruger, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

So what does the early heated exchange of words mean?

“It tells me that it’s an election and a hotly-contested election, so you use whatever gains traction,” said political strategist George Arzt.

Republicans said they are ready to spend up to $500,000 on the special election, which is probably more money than the GOP has dropped in the Senate district in the last decade.

Storobin is part of the fast-growing Russian Jewish population in the area, a group that voted heavily for the Republican in the race to replace scandal-scarred congressman Anthony Weiner.

It’s a nasty start to an abbreviated campaign for the the special election, which will take place on March 20.

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