Nearly a year and a half after taking on and defeating Michael Geller, the 24-year Democratic Leader of the 45th Assemby District, Ari Kagan finally has the political club he promised his supporters.
Bay Democrats celebrated its grand opening in the headquarters of the Davidzon Radio media empire (2508 Coney Island Avenue) on Wednesday with a crowd of approximately 70 people and a lineup of elected officials showering praise on the Russian-American activist.
Club leaders hailed the event as a re-opening, pointing to the group’s October 2012 formation, when they held a celebration at the Bainbridge Center in Sheepshead Bay. Advertised as a “unity club” that spanned the area’s various ethnic and religious groups, the club’s activity petered out after Superstorm Sandy hit days later, and never had an official home until now.
Kagan said now that a home base has been established for Bay Democrats, it’s time to get down to business.
“Now that Bay Democrats has a home we can focus on the issues affecting our community. I am most optimistic because of the broad support we have from the community,” he said in a press release.
The event attracted a slew of elected officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblyman Bill Colton, Councilmen David Greenfield, Chaim Deutsch, Mark Treyger and former City Comptroller John Liu, among others.
The club is headed by Ben Akselrod, a conservative Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in 2012. Chinese-American activist Sam Tsang will serve as vice president.
District leaders are party positions elected by registered voters of the party. In addition to influencing the leadership and platform of the local and state political party, they’re charged with rallying local bases in support of candidates. They do this largely through political clubs like Bay Democrats, which recruit and organize volunteers for campaign-related activities like petition-signing and preparing mailers.
While Kagan has pitched the club as a unity club, the vast majority of the attendees on Wednesday were Russian American, and the location, inside the headquarters of perhaps the largest Russian-language media empire, may offer a hint at the club’s target base.
And with leadership that includes Kagan, Akselrod and Tsang, all of whom have been critical of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, it’s likely they’ll back a challenger to the incumbent in the Assembly primary later this year.
The group will hold weekly meetings on Wednesday nights.