Archive for the tag 'democrats'

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

The race for the 45th District of the State Assembly lives on!

Ben Akselrod, a Democrat, has scored the Republican nomination for the 45th Assembly race, allowing him to continue his challenge against incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz until election day on November 4.

Akselrod, president of the Bay Democrats political club, received the most write-in votes – 46 in all – during the Republican primary, allowing him to steal the GOP line for the general election.

There were no candidates backed by the party in the primary, which would normally mean there is no primary and thus no general election candidate. But Republican voters, which sources say were organized by the Akselrod campaign, filed petitions requesting an “opportunity to ballot,” forcing the party to hold a primary to gather write-in votes. The results of the write-ins became public last week.

Steven Cymbrowitz received the second highest amount of write-in votes with 27. There were 11 more write-ins who received one vote each, and Russian media mogul Gregory Davidzon snagged two write-in votes. Another 31 write-ins were illegible.

That allows Akselrod to move forward to the general election, but it’s still not clear if he’s going to actively campaign for the seat. Akselrod has not returned a request for comment.

The latest campaign filing for Akselrod shows he only has $3,986.22 on hand. Cymbrowitz, meanwhile, has $36,650.18.

Ozzie Heymann, Akselrod’s campaign manager during the primary, said he wasn’t sure of the candidate’s plans and if he’ll be involved in the general election campaign.

“I don’t know that there would be a campaign. If there would be, I assume that I would be involved. But that hasn’t been decided yet,” Heymann said.

Another close Akselrod supporter, Democratic District Leader Ari Kagan, said Akselrod is unlikely to have a decision before October 15, when the Jewish holidays end. That would leave less than a month to campaign.

The development itself also puts Kagan in an awkward position. In 2012, Kagan unseated longtime district leader Michael Geller, largely on the criticism that Geller had a record of supporting Republican candidates. Now his good friend, political ally, and the chosen president of his Democratic club is running on the GOP line.

Kagan, who is openly critical of Cymbrowitz, said he will stay on the sidelines if Akselrod decides to campaign.

“I’m the Democratic district leader, a strong democrat,” said Kagan. “If [Akselrod] runs as a Republican, there’s a 99 percent chance that I will not support the Republican nominee. But that doesn’t mean I will support the Democratic nominee. I never said anywhere I would just support anyone.”

Kagan also said that he and Akselrod previously discussed the possibility that Akselrod would win the Republican line, and it comes with a consequence.

“If he decides to run on the Republican line, he’ll resign from the Bay Democrats. That’s for sure,” he said.

Despite losing the primary election to Cymbrowitz in 2012, Akselrod was able to move onto the general election on the Independence Party line. That created a three-way race with Russ Gallo as a Republican. Gallo and Akselrod combined took home just shy of 45 percent of the vote, while Cymbrowitz took 55 percent of the vote. Akselrod alone had 19 percent of the vote.

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Nobody beats the ‘witz, at least not in the 2014 primary elections.

Fourteen-year incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz won his party’s nod for reelection to the 45th Assembly District last night in one of the closest elections in the borough. But it was a solid victory for the local pol, who bested challenger Ben Akselrod by a margin nearly double that won during his 2012 matchup against the same candidate.

Cymbrowitz gave his victory speech just before 11pm last night, when his team had tallied up initial reports from approximately 70 percent of precincts.

“It was a terrific campaign. We more than doubled our victory from two years ago,” he said of the preliminary numbers that came in before all votes were counted. “I want to thank every part of my community … This was really very, very special.”

Preliminary results from the Board of Elections show Cymbrowitz with 2,137 votes, or 57.2 percent of the total, versus Ben Akselrod’s 1,599 votes, or 42.8 percent. In both percentage and actual votes, Cymbrowitz showed sizable gains over his opponent, who he beat by just eight points, or 294 votes in 2012. The margin this year was 538 votes, or 14 points.

Voters may not have seen the last of Ben Akselrod in this campaign season, however. The candidate filed an opportunity to ballot on the Republican line, a procedure that could have him in the general election if he organized enough write-in votes from Republican voters yesterday. The Board of Election will take several weeks to count, review and certify those ballots to make it official.

The win appeared to surprise some political observers, who believed Cymbrowitz’s strength had been diminished by the growing political influence of Russian and Jewish voters in the district that they believed would fall more heavily to Askelrod, who is both Russian and Orthodox Jewish.

It was a tough fought and, at times, nasty campaign, with allegations of voter harassment on the Sabbath, mysterious race-tinged fliers, and anonymous phone calls that attacked the incumbent’s wife for not being Jewish.

Cymbrowitz alluded to one of those negative attacks in his victory speech.

“I particularly want to thank [my wife] Vilma for not only being a great support, but keeping her cool when she had to when the attacks started coming,” he said.

Cymbrowitz will now move on to the general elections on November 4, where he’ll face off against Mikhail Usher, who is running on the Conservative Party line, and possibly Akselrod on the Republican line.

dell

Smitherman (Source: Smitherman campaign)

Democrat Dell Smitherman officially kicked off his campaign to unseat embattled State Senator John Sampson yesterday at a launch event in Canarsie.

Flanked by family, friends and supporters, Smitherman said he’d stake his claim to represent the district on affordable housing, healthcare access and education.

“This district has a ton of potential, but we haven’t tapped into that potential yet,” said Smitherman. “That’s because in this district right now we have no state representation, and our incumbent cannot bring the resources we need back to our community. I’m running for State Senate to bring a real, progressive advocate to Albany, and finally demand our community’s fair share in the State Senate.”

The 19th District covers Canarsie, East New York and Brownsville, and also has a broad swath of Sheepshead Bay.

Smitherman, a former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, has already picked up support from that union, as well as backing from Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Working Families Party.

The incumbent, Sampson, who served as Senate leader in 2009 when Democrats briefly controlled the body, has been charged with embezzlement and corruption, for which he has pleaded not guilty.

The New York Observer reports that the announcement didn’t go without a few swipes at Sampson:

“Every day you open the newspaper and hear about the corruption,” Mr. Smitherman told his supporters. “In this district right now we have no state representation. Our incumbent has been kicked out of the Democratic conference. He cannot bring capital funds home to the district.”

“We have schools that can be built with those capital funds. Our public libraries–we can’t get those resources right now,” he added. “I don’t think Albany is working for this community right now.”

The site also reports that Sampson is running with the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, giving him an advantage despite the legal woes. Two other contenders for the Democratic line have also announced: Sean Henry and Leon Miles.

baydems

Bay Democrats Vice President Sam Tsang, District Leader Ari Kagan, and President Ben Akselrod.

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.

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm is asking the federal government to earmark $600 million for the Build it Back program, the housing recovery project designed to help Superstorm Sandy victims, and take control over Sandy funds out of the hands of of local authorities, reports SILive.

While the money is already on its way as part of a larger package, Grimm wants the government to earmark that amount specifically for Build it Back and not permit New York City or state authorities any flexibility with the funds.

“The City of New York needs to take a better look at how they’re allocating their resources. It’s not their money to just allocate as they see fit. This is the people of Staten Island’s money — that was the intent of Congress. And they need to be stewards to that money,” Grimm said.

Thus far, the billions in federal aid money flowing into city coffers has come in the form of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) and has allowed the city to be flexible in the way it spends it. In a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Grimm advocated that the city needs an additional $600 million just for housing alone, and that the city should have no say in how this cash is spent.

“I don’t have faith that the city will do the right thing for the people that I represent in Staten Island,” Grimm said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the continuing government shutdown could cause serious delays in distributing Superstorm Sandy relief money. The New York Daily News is reporting that Bloomberg and mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota all expressed the same opinion that the shutdown could harm people and businesses trying to recover from the storm.

With much of the federal workforce furloughed, aid money flowing from Community Development Block Grants is likely to be slowed due to the lack of government workers pushing it through the system.

In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg described dire consequences if the shutdown doesn’t end soon.

“Right now, Washington’s gridlock is doing real harm to our nation’s economy – and if they don’t get their acts together soon, New York City families, especially those who endured the worst from Hurricane Sandy, will feel real pain,” Bloomberg said, “If, for example, you’re a business owner in the Rockaways, this could mean a longer wait time to get grants and loans – prolonging what has been an already difficult and cumbersome process for so many.”

Bloomberg also said that politicians in Washington had lost sight of the fact that their disagreements were affecting the lives of real people, stating that, “Enough is enough.”

The Daily News described how both De Blasio and Lhota agreed that the gridlock in DC must come to an end, yet they both descended into partisan bickering over who was to blame:

“The Republicans in the House if they want to live up to the phrase patriotic should settle this problem now so the people in this country who have suffered from natural disasters don’t suffer more,” [de Blasio] said.

“Mr. Lhota is a Republican. He’s a proud republican. He is someone who’s been a Republican all his life. And his party continues to do things that hurt the interests of New York City. And I think that Republicans like him should have long ago fought back against the negative trends in their party. They should not have accepted it and they should have considered leaving the Republican Party,” he said.

“I don’t understand in this day and age how someone could continue to be a Republican and say that they want to help New York City move forward.”

Lhota condemned the shutdown and insisted trying to tie him to Republicans in Washington is unfair. “I’ve blasted the Congressional Republicans for their actions,” he said.

“While I may be a Republican, I don’t believe in what those Congressional Republicans are doing. They’re serving themselves, they’re not serving the people who elected them.”

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

Democrats across the city are rallying behind the perceived inevitability of Bill de Blasio becoming the Democratic nominee after the candidate narrowly slipped by the trigger for a runoff in the preliminary vote count, and are urging Bill Thompson to concede his desire for a recount to force to a runoff. Councilman Lew Fidler, though, is not one of them. An ardent supporter of Bill Thompson, he’s urging his friend to keep the campaign alive.

In the first returns, it appears that de Blasio just barely eclipsed the 40 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff with Thompson, who finished second with 26.2 percent of the vote. If a recount does find de Blasio under the 40 percent threshold, Thompson and his supporters are hoping that voters who cast ballots for Christine Quinn, John Liu and Anthony Weiner could be persuaded to make up the difference. This is exactly what Thompson supporter Fidler is banking on, striking a defiant anti-de Blasio tone in his remarks to the Daily News.

“When people realize what they’ve done, they’ll reconsider and vote for Thompson,” Fidler said.

Fidler’s stern support of Thompson is flying in the face of a bevvy local Democrats, who once endorsed the likes of Quinn and Thompson, jump ship and back de Blasio. A report by Politicker made a long list of politicians and labor groups switching to Team de Blasio:

The Democratic and labor establishment, however, has indicated they have little appetite for another primary race. Indeed, the two Democrats who will be locked in a citywide runoff for public advocate, Councilwoman Tish James and State Senator Daniel Squadron, were among those endorsing Mr. de Blasio today.

“There are two reasons we are supporting Bill de Blasio. He tells the truth, and he’s a fighter for the middle class, working class and poor. That’s an awfully good combination, and we’re excited to get behind his campaign,” Dan Cantor, executive director of the WFP, in a statement. “Bill de Blasio has dedicated himself to addressing the soaring inequality that characterizes New York.”

Despite all the momentum that the de Blasio campaign is mounting, Fidler had strong words for anyone who backed Thompson and are now considering supporting de Blasio.

“Grow a pair and don’t rush to judgment,” Fidler told the Daily News.

When asked if Fidler’s hard line against de Blasio would melt if Thompson was defeated once and for all, Fidler wouldn’t give an inch.

“I’m not prepared to answer that,” Fidler said, adding that, “I am going to be with Bill Thompson until the last vote is counted.”

natraj-bhushan

Natraj Bhushan

Vying for the Democratic nomination to replace term-limited Michael Nelson in the City Council’s 48th District, Natraj Bhushan is making technology the cornerstone of his platform, saying that a councilman’s office should be a hub for information and innovation.

The 27-year-old Brighton Beach native, son of an Indian father and Pakistani mother, has provided legal assistance to constituents in Nelson’s office during and after Superstorm Sandy. He later moved on to providing services at Councilmember Leory Comerie’s office. His experience in those roles, he said, has inspired him to conceive of software to better empower residents through adding transparency and efficiency to constituent services.

“I believe, if you empower the community to solve its own problems, you don’t need us [elected officials]. We’re in the background. I want to de-emphasize the individual and emphasize the community,” he told Sheepshead Bites. “And I think the way you do that is to give everybody the resources. Give them the information.”

Continue Reading »

City Council candidate David Storobin

City Council candidate David Storobin

In an interview, Republican City Council candidate David Storobin characterized Democratic candidate Ari Kagan as someone who has never held a full-time job, thus making him unqualified as a potential councilman. In the interview, conducted by Matzav, Storobin also expressed his opinion that Kagan would be a puppet of the Democratic machine.

When asked about what he thinks of his opponents in the Council race, Storobin singled out Kagan and held back no punches in his description of him:

One of my opponents is Ari Kagan, a 46-year-old who has never had a full-time job in his life. He talks about creating jobs, but why couldn’t he create one for himself first? As a fellow Russian-American, I find this to be an embarrassment. This community worked very hard to build itself up after coming to this country penniless, and right now almost everyone has joined the middle class. But out of all the successful people, Frank Seddio and the Brooklyn Democratic Party bosses decided to back the only person I know who is permanently unemployed because they know he’ll be the easiest to control. Why did no Democratic politician offer him a real, full-time job, something Kagan desperately wanted during his 16 years of political involvement? If he wasn’t good enough for the Democratic politicians, why is he being forced upon the people of this district?

I think the difference between someone like myself who was raised poor and started his own business at the age of 25 versus someone who has never landed a full-time job in his life is very clear.

In response to Storobin’s characterization, Kagan’s campaign spokesperson sent Sheepshead Bites the following quote, touching on parts of Kagan’s resumé, and slammed Storobin for mudslinging:

Like many New Yorkers, Ari worked a number of jobs to provide for his family. He is proud to have served as a part-time staffer to prominent elected officials, in addition to his work as a journalist, hosting popular radio and television programs and writing for a weekly newspaper in a growing and vibrant immigrant community. In fact, Ari worked full-time at the Russian Jewish Forward while pursuing his degree at Baruch College as a full time student. It’s not surprising that once again David Storobin chooses to bring his campaign into the gutter – he never fails to disappoint. Along with being factually inaccurate, his comments ignore the important contributions made by hardworking women and men in community and ethnic media.
debate

Screenshot from debate video, produced by Jacob Kornbluh

The Democratic candidates for the 48th District of the City Council, currently represented by Michael Nelson, tested the limits of civil discussion during a heated forum hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, with each candidate chiding the others for dirty campaign tactics and stances on issues contrary to the Orthodox community.

Sheepshead Bites couldn’t attend the forum, which was held in the heart of one of the most conservative communities in the district at Young Israel of Midwood, but reports by Politicker and NYCElects.com show that the discussion quickly turned negative, as the candidates lobbed rhetorical bombs – and meows – at one another.

Politicker reports:

Unlike in other parts of the city, endorsements from groups like the teachers’ union were treated almost as liabilities. And openly admiring George Bush–either father or son–was not.

“When I went down to the [United Federation of Teachers], I walked into the office and I said to them, ‘I don’t want your endorsement, but I’m here out of respect. I’m gonna come answer the questions and what my issues are,’” said Chaim Deutsch, an Orthodox Jewish City Council aide, to applause.

Ari Kagan, a Russian-American district leader backed by the UFT, fended off attacks from rivals and even prodding from a moderator about whether he would be committed to defending private school education, particularly tax credits for families with kids attending Yeshivas, while running with the support of a public school teachers union.

“Maybe you want to look at Ari, who has accepted the endorsement of UFT but in the same breath says he supports vouchers,” Mr. [Igor] Oberman remarked.

When asked if he supported school vouchers, Oberman said it would never happen in New York City, and encouraged attendees to “see through the bullshit” of what he believed to be pandering in other candidates’ support for school vouchers.

The Politicker report continued:

All of the candidates further reveled in panning more liberal-leaning Bloomberg administration policies like the proposed regulations on large sugary beverages–Mr. Oberman called the proposal “retarded”–as well as the tax burden on small businesses. Mr. Oberman, the Working Families Party-backed candidate, blasted Mr. Kagan for not denouncing independent expenditures being paid on his behalf by a real estate-backed group, portraying him as a future puppet of wealthy real estate developers.

Tacking right, Mr. Kagan hit right back.

“I never knew that I would come from the former Soviet Union to listen about class warfare in the United States of America from a person who also came from the former Soviet Union. I’m shocked, a little bit,” Mr. Kagan said.

As Mr. Kagan and Mr. Oberman traded blows, another candidate, Theresa Scavo, a professed admirer of both President Bushes, periodically cried “meow,” implying the two men were engaging in frivolous cat fights.

“I’m not getting down in the mud with any one of these three,” she declared. “I am finding this so disgusting sitting here, the three of them clawing at each other … the three of you are behaving like children!”

Scavo may have aimed to stay above the fray, but was dragged down into it after Deutsch targeted her for allegedly speaking ill of seniors, accepting the support of the National Organization of Women, which he said “had an agenda with gays and lesbians,” and for being complicit in deceiving the community when a supporter allegedly used a pen name to write a positive profile of her in a Sephardic magazine – an allegation which she “meowed” through.

NYCElects.com reports:

Mr. Deutsch also attacked Ms. Scavo for slamming ‘seniors’ sleeping at community board 15 meetings and for having Mike Geller, the former District leader in the 45th AD, pen articles in favor of Ms. Scavo in the Image Magazine under a pen name ‘Kim Grell’.

Scavo called Deutsch a liar after he made the claim about seniors, clarifying that she told then-Congressman Anthony Weiner that there were seniors sleeping at the Board meetings. She did not respond to the allegations regarding Mike Geller and the article in Image Magazine, but did dismiss the endorsement from the National Organization of Women, noting that she received it because she’s the only woman in the race.

Although the issue was not tackled directly during the debate, Scavo has expressed support for gay and lesbian marriage equality to Sheepshead Bites, as has Oberman. Deutsch and Kagan, as well as the Republican contender, David Storobin, all stand opposed to marriage equality.

From the reports, Deutsch appeared to be the instigator of the negativity, slamming each of his rivals one by one, including an allegation against Kagan that he had altered his first name – from Arkady – in order to draw more support from the frum community. Kagan mailers also printed his first name in Hebrew, another sore point for Deutsch.

“I will not be like my opponent … Mr. Ari Kagan, advertising as the name ‘Ari’ in Hebrew, making people think he is the Orthodox candidate,” said Deutsch, according to Politicker. “I will not fool anyone. I will not lie to you.”

“I am very proud of my name. I legally changed my name in 2002 before I ran for anything. I never knew that writing my name in Hebrew is wrong. What is wrong with you, Chaim?” Kagan replied, according to NYCElects.com.

Jacob Kornbluh, author of the NYCElects.com report, filmed the video below. He told Sheepshead Bites he hopes to have the full version online tonight, which we’ll add to this post.

Next »