This year I had a privilege to run for New York City Council in 48 District – Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Trump Village, Luna Park, Brightwater, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Homecrest, Midwood.
On September 10, 2013 about 10,000 Democrats voted on primary election in this district. According to preliminary results, Chaim Deutsch, an assistant to Councilman Michael Nelson, won the race with 33% of the total vote. I received about 31%, Theresa Scavo, chairwoman of community board 15, received 19%, attorney and Trump Village West President Igor Oberman – 14%, attorney Natraj Bhushan – 3%. I am very grateful for the incredible support I received from every community in my district.
Unfortunately, this campaign became very nasty in the last few days before primary election. Mr. Oberman who is a close social friend with Republican candidate, former state Senator David Storobin, spent most of his time, efforts and campaign money to attack me. He filed numerous harassing legal complaints against me with Campaign Finance Board (all were dismissed by CFB!), produced a disgusting TV commercial claiming that I accepted $200,000 from wealthy Manhattan developers and that I was planning to destroy affordable housing and rent regulations.
Igor Oberman ran a very dirty campaign
Oberman campaign paid for a radio commercial stating that journalist cannot run for City Council– only lawyer can (!). Oberman campaign sent voters a mailer “Secret Mission” predicting that I will eliminate Section 8 and quality of life in Southern Brooklyn. Another Oberman mailer claimed that I am a former member of Communist Party and at the same time I am a puppet of greedy developers who will destroy affordable housing.
Mr. Oberman did not care much that all my newspaper stories, TV and radio shows, my volunteer work for the community were dedicated to the neediest New Yorkers, especially seniors and disabled. He basically accused me of … fighting myself - a community activist, a Democratic District leader, a journalist who always defended low income people and middle class.
There was a record amount of anonymous flyers, letters and phone calls targeting primarily Russian seniors in this campaign. People in a district received four rounds of calls with female voice saying, “Don’t vote Kagan, he was a KGB agent”. When Mr. Oberman was asked by the Jewish magazine Tablet for comments about these calls, he responded: “As far as I know, Kagan never denied these accusations” (!). For the record: I always categorically denied this libel. I worked as an aide to the United States Congressman Michael McMahon – after passing additional security clearance.
There was an anonymous literature drop at Brighton Beach stating in English and in Russian that I never worked full-time in my life and no elected officials wanted to hire me as full-time worker. That was a lie repeated over and over again by David Storobin who was really scared that I will become a Democratic nominee and will easily beat him in November. I worked at four jobs (!) and declined the offer to work full-time at Comptroller’s office only because I wanted to keep my journalistic work.
Mr. Storobin attacked me in his press releases, emails, text messages, interviews for various websites, Russian radio 87.7 FM and newspapers. He accused me of being lazy and incompetent, ridiculed my volunteer work, lied about my jobs and education, and claimed that I declared on my radio show that I was offered …bribes (!).
He even said I have no brain and that all my activities are criminal and unethical. He even sent threatening messages to my Facebook page (!). He said I am not qualified to run for political office because I never had a full-time job and was unemployed (!).
Some of his lies were later reproduced in these anonymous Russian language flyers or repeated by Mr. Oberman. It was obvious to me that these guys coordinated their attacks despite the fact that Mr. Oberman received an endorsement from the leftist Working Families Party while Mr. Storobin was endorsed by the Conservative Party. On September 9, 2013, at 3 p.m. they came together to Brighton 6 Street building to criticize me there.
On Election Day, staff worker for Storobin campaign distributed palm cards for Oberman (!) near the Shorefront Y poll site. They both repeated accusations against me almost verbatim at their radio appearances. Their goal was clear – to prevent me from winning the Democratic nomination, so Mr. Storobin would run against non-Russian in a heavily Russian district.
Here are some examples of dirty anonymous tricks against me during this race.
On September 5, 2013, at Rosh Ha Shana, religious Jews received robocall from "me" with New Year greeting: "Vote for Ari Kagan on September 10! Shana Tovah!" Of course, I did not make these calls and nobody from my campaign worked on Rosh ha Shana. One more anonymous flyer was racist - two pictures of me with Senator Eric Adams and with my friend Sophia Williams, a social worker from Coney Island, and text in Russian:” Don't vote for Ari Kagan! He is supported by Obama socialists!”
Few days before the election a popular free newspaper Trump Village News, whose editor endorsed Mr. Oberman, published a front page story title “Ari Kagan is hurting children” (!) The author accused me of …canceling children carnival at Trump Village. This carnival was cancelled by Mr. Oberman because it was mistakenly scheduled for August 25, the same day as popular Brighton Jubilee.
On September 6, 2013 hundreds of post cards were sent from Manhattan to Russian speaking Democrats in 48 District. Here is a detailed story about it:
The bottom line is simple - attacks by Mr. Oberman and Mr. Storobin as well as anonymous calls, flyers and fake post cards played an important role in my defeat.
But I feel good anyway. After all, I am just 46, healthy man with a great family, many friends and a promising future. I am still a District Leader who received almost 3,000 votes. Life is beautiful and I have nothing to complain about!