Ari Kagan, who narrowly lost his bid for the Democratic nod during last week’s primary, is alleging that dirty campaigning from a rival candidate and an anonymous trickster helped bring down his candidacy, and has offered up evidence that suggests an effort to suppress the Russian vote in the 48th District.
According to Kagan, thousands of Russian-language postcards went out to voters of the 48th District, telling them that their poll site had been changed to a non-existent poll site in another district. Kagan said he found out about the dirty trick the night before the primaries as phone calls from supporters began trickling in to his campaign office as well as to his radio show on Davidzon Radio. He has since collected several dozen of them and supplied a copy of the one above to Sheepshead Bites.
Information for election
Change location of your election site
Co-op 2475 West 16th Street
The location given is actually in the 47th District, and there is no poll site there. Some voters as far away as Avenue O in Midwood received these, and all were in Russian language. They were sent from a Manhattan post office.
Now, Kagan is demanding the authorities look into the matter.
“It needs investigation. It’s a federal crime. We’re not talking about five people, 10 people. I realized how big a crime it was when people began calling me, my friends, my campaign office asking about their polling site,” he said, noting that he tried to minimize the damage by doing a robocall and a segment on his radio show informing voters that cards had gone out with false poll site information.
Kagan was not alone in his outrage.
“It’s absolutely reprehensible and I condemn any effort to intentionally mislead voters. We have to encourage people to be involved in the political process,” said Chaim Deutsch, who won Tuesday’s primary.
“This act was a violation of everything we hold dear in our country,” added Theresa Scavo, who finished in third. “Whoever did this criminal act took away certain individuals’ right to vote and may have caused an upset in the election process. The potential voters could have been on their way to vote for any of the candidates on the slate, maybe me. There should be a thorough investigation and justice must be served.”
The postcards lack a return address and any identifying information, so they’ll be hard to trace back to a source.
Kagan, though, said he suspects his fellow Russian-American candidate, Igor Oberman.
“I suspect it was the campaign that focused during the last week totally on me and not on the district. I suspect the campaign that was the dirtiest in all my memory. That would be Igor Oberman, who ran a divisive, nasty, dirty campaign,” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “But this is a suspicion, I have to prove it.”
When asked for comment about the postcards and Kagan’s allegations, Oberman’s campaign offered the following statement: “Neither the campaign nor Igor Oberman have any knowledge of voter suppression tactics of any kind used during the Primary Campaign in the 48th District City Council race.”
Kagan said he believes it’s Oberman because Oberman is the only campaign that went negative, and focused all of its attack ads on Kagan and no other candidate. He cited the CFB complaints we previously reported on, as well as misleading ads taken out by the Oberman campaign alleging Kagan would eliminate Section 8 housing and rent stabilization. He said Oberman booked no such attack ads against other candidates in the race, and none of the other candidates had negative ads at all.
While it would appear that a suppression of Russian-American voters would hurt Oberman as much as Kagan, however, Kagan pointed out that Russians appear to have voted for Kagan over Oberman at a rate of five to one. He suspects that Oberman’s campaign was not aiming to be victorious, but rather to keep a Russian-speaking candidate off the Democratic ballot in order to benefit Republican candidate David Storobin, who Kagan said Oberman is friends with.
The allegation echoes that recently made by Councilman Lew Fidler, who claimed Oberman was a “mole” for Storobin, and had passed the Republican details of Fidler’s campaign strategy while volunteering for him during the 2012 special election in which Storobin and Fidler faced off.
Oberman declined to respond to the charge, but Storobin dismissed it outright.
“That’s completely false. It’s preposterous on so many fronts. First of all, I wish I was that charismatic to get them to throw themselves under the bus for me, but I don’t think I am,” he said. “I think the logical suggestion is that it would be one of the non-Russian candidates in the race, because it’s targeting Russian votes.”
He added that he and Oberman are not friends, but merely friendly acquaintances, although he did not account for why the Democrat contributed to his recent State Senate campaign.
He also said Oberman’s campaign did not bare the marks of one that was attempting to split the Russian vote, with the candidate having focused his spending on younger Russians and non-Russians, rather than the elderly Russians that comprise Kagan’s base.
“You can follow the money trail with most things, and the money trail shows he wasn’t going after Ari’s base. He was going after the young Russians and non-Russians. The amount of money he spent on Russian media was less than 10 percent. It defies all logic,” he said.
Kagan’s argument also appears weakened by the announcement this morning that Oberman would continue his campaign as a third party candidate, which would most likely detract from Storobin’s support from the Russian community.
Prior to the announcement, though, Kagan remained convinced.
“Do I believe [Oberman] was doing it for Storobin? I have a lot of reasons to suspect this. A lot of reasons . And of course, both of them will deny it,” he said. “Igor Oberman served his purpose. He bashed Ari Kagan, and he took some votes away from Ari Kagan. That’s why Storobin didn’t bash Oberman or anyone else. Just me, me, me,” he said, referring to Storobin’s lone attack during the entire campaign.