It’s Election Day in New York next Thursday! But instead of a titanic battle between ideologies–your Mitt Romneys vs. Barack Obamas, if you will–the options on the ballot will be little-noticed state legislative contests between candidates of the same party, often with few policy differences.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some exciting races happening. From “Who Gets Arrested for Raping a Grandmother?” to “Assemblywoman Caught Up in Sex Scandal with Two Young Men,” there’s been no shortage of nasty drama and mud slinging as voters head to the polls.
Here’s a breakdown of who’s running and why it might matter who wins. The list below focuses on Democratic races because the few Republican primaries in this staunchly blue city tend to have clear favorites or are taking place in such Democratic territory that the victor is reasonably likely to be irrelevant.
At the end of last week, Sheepshead Bites reported that Ben Akselrod, campaigning for the State Assembly in southeastern Brooklyn, mistakenly sent out campaign literature describing crime going up in the “negrohood.”
“Dear Friend, I am running for Assembly because I believe the number 1 job of that office is to keep the community safe,” Mr. Akselrod wrote. “The current assemblyman has allowed crime to go up over 50% in our negrohood so far this year. I am fighting for video cameras throughout our community to protect our seniors who are the most vulnerable and cut down on anti-semitic attacks in our community. I will also make sure the mayor gives our community more police to patrol our streets.”
New York’s only branch of the controversial fried chicken sandwich chain Chick-Fil-A is located in an NYU cafeteria, but if a self-proclaimed Tea Partier running for State Assembly has his way the restaurant will soon set up shop in South Brooklyn. As a response to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s letter asking NYU to close the campus Chick-Fil-A after the owner of the chain declared his opposition to same-sex marriage, Mr. Gallo sent a letter of his own. Mr. Gallo wrote to Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-Fil-A, saying, “I would like to invite your company to consider opening a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in southern Brooklyn.”
“I want you to know that Ms. Quinn does not speak for all New Yorkers. I and many of my neighbors agree with your views on traditional family units. But more importantly, I’m sure we all could agree that no one in government should tell anyone what to believe, who to support and how to spend our money,” Mr. Gallo wrote.
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Democratic Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, facing one of the more competitive primary and general election battles in the city (especially if one just looks at assembly seats), may lose a tool many candidates covet: the Independence Party line. A paperwork snafu with his “Certificate of Acceptance” — needed to formally accept another party’s designation — will void the signatures he gathered to appear on the ballot under the Independence banner, multiple political observers told us.
“I am as Tea Party as they come,” Russell Gallo, a district leader and head of a young Republican club in Brooklyn, announced yesterday afternoon. “Fiscal conservative. On social issues I don’t think anyone can be more conservative than I. Marriage can only be between one man and one woman in my opinion, and I will vote that way every chance I get if elected.”
Explaining his candidacy for the State Assembly to a Brooklyn Tea Party crowd in East Flatbush, Mr. Gallo stressed again that neither incumbent Democrat Steve Cymbrowitz, nor his primary opponent Ben Akselrod, would come close to him in terms of conservatism.
The Democratic electorate in southern Brooklyn is changing, with the Russian and Orthodox Jewish vote becoming increasingly salient, and Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz knows it.
In Wednesday’s widely-circulated weekend edition of the Orthodox Jewish newspaper Hamodia, Mr. Cymbrowitz took out a full page ad that neither hides his secularism nor his political adherence to conservative political principles, especially on the issue of gay marriage (which is only referred to as “legalizing immorality” in the ad).
Russell Gallo, the President of the Brooklyn Young Republicans, is planning to run against Democratic Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, setting the stage for what will likely be one of the few competitive assembly battles in New York City this November.
Reached for comment, Mr. Gallo said that he’s “not making any public statements until we get closer to the end of petitioning,” however, according to multiple sources familiar with his efforts, he fully intends to run.
Joseph Hayon, a Republican activist in southeastern Brooklyn’s Jewish community who did surprisingly well against Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz in 2010, will forgo a rematch and instead run against Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein. Indeed, Mr. Hayon, who also doubles as the head of the Brooklyn Tea Party club, told us that he was “99%” likely to run.
Mr. Hayon is known in Brooklyn political circles as a particularly passionate opponent of the gay marriage legislation signed last year, and he hinted that Mr. Cymbrowitz’s vote against the bill — and Ms. Weinstein’s support of it — factored into his decision-making, in addition to redistricting changing the shape of the map.
Earlier this month, The Politicker reported local politico Ben Akselrod was considering a primary challenge against Democratic Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, and last Friday, Mr. Akselrod registered a campaign committee for that very seat, suggesting he’s moving forward with his plans.
Mr. Cymbrowitz, who won relatively narrowly in 2010 despite facing a neophyte opponent with $600 in his campaign account, was already in a precarious electoral position for the general election, especially considering the district delivered strongly for the Republican Party in two special elections that have occurred since. If Mr. Akselrod indeed challenges Mr. Cymbrowitz in the primary, that would only add to his electoral headache.
Democratic Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz may face a primary challenge from Ben Akselrod, multiple tipsters told The Politicker. Mr. Akselrod, they indicated, might even earn the support of Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez in his endeavor.
Mr. Akselrod, a politically active local who’s been involved in multiple Jewish community organizations, could have additional appeal in the district’s large Russian-speaking population that is growing into a powerful political force in southeastern Brooklyn.