KCP’s Guide To General Election Races To Watch

Mayor Bill de Blasio Versus Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis

While Democratic incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio is a strong odds on favorite to win this mayoral contest, his challenger Republican Nicole Malliotakis will present a worthy challenge.

On de Blasio’s plus side is he’s done a good job in his first term. Crime is down, and he instituted both Universal Pre-K and kept a freeze on rent-controlled apartments for two years. He is a strong campaigner, who has stepped up his game with a series of town halls and outer borough appearances as the election season heats up. He also is proven and relentless when it comes to raising money for his campaign war chest, and has an army of young volunteers, many of whom now have patronage jobs within his administration, and who come from political clubhouse politics.

On his negative side, de Blasio is tone and policy deaf when it comes to both big and small business, except for real estate interests, and it could be argued his administration is speeding up, not decreasing gentrification. Ironically, De Blasio’s progressive persona at times comes off as a lazy elitist, who if he doesn’t get his way will take the ball and bat home rather than let others play. He also has a Trumponian relationship with the media.

Malliotakis’ strengths include her political fearlessness, being an extremely hard worker and not being afraid of the media.  As a Cuban-Greek American, Malliotakis could pull both the women and conservative Latino votes, and a low voter turnout could help her. Win or lose, this is a free run for Malliotakis and her political stock will continue to raise as her assembly seat is not up until next year.

Maliotakis’ minuses are that she is a Republican in a hugely Democratic city, and is already being painted as a huge Trump supporter even though she chaired Marco Rubio’s New York campaign for president.


Justin Brannan Versus John Quaglione

Justin Brannan
John Quaglione

This 43rd district city council contest covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach is likely to be the most closely watched local race in the city.

Both Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican John Quaglione are smart, strong political candidates. Both are lifelong Bay Ridgites who live and breathe the district. Both have institutional party support. Brannan is the former chief-of-staff for term-limited City Council Member Vincent Gentile and has worked in the de Blasio Administration. Quaglione is the longtime communications director for State Sen. Marty Golden. Both GOP Party Chair Ted Ghorra and Golden hail from the district.

One of the keys to watch for is registered Democrats outvoted registered Republicans in total votes, 9,189 to 3,628 in the primary. This means that Quaglione will have to bring out the independents and turn some of the Democratic votes to his column. While there are a growing number of progressives in the district, this is more a blue-collar Democratic district, meaning residents will likely vote for the person they believe will best represent them as opposed to along party lines. Another key to watch is the senior vote.

An interesting sidenote will be to watch if Brannan and Bay Ridge District Leader and City Council Member Mark Treyger can overcome their political infighting differences and work together. If so, this can work to the benefit of both as Brannan could use Treyger’s base in the Bath Beach and Bensonhust parts of the district, and Treyger could use Brannan’s support in the runnup to the Borough President’s race in four years.


Kalman Yeger Versus Yoni Hikind

Kalman Yeger
Yoni Hikind

This 44th district city council race pitting Democrat Kalman Yeger against “Our Neighborhood” Party candidate Yoni Hikind promises to be the most entertaining, strangest and down and dirty campaigns of the political season.

This heart of the district is Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish Borough Park along with the Orthodox Jewish parts of Flatbush, Bensonhurst and Kensington, which also includes a large number of Bangledshi Muslims, former Soviet Union Immigrants and Mexicans. But for all practical purposes, this will come down to the religious Jewish vote.

City Councilman David Greenfield installed Yeger as the Democratic candidate through election law loopholes when he recently announced he will step down at the end of his term to head the Met Council of Jewish Poverty.

This prompted a mad rush of activity from forces loyal to local Assemblyman Dov Hinkind, a political rival of Greenfield, who once worked for Hikind. After some jostling among Hikind’s loyalists, his son Yoni Hikind threw his hat in the ring.

Speaking of hats, this is a race where hats have literally become an issue as Hikind’s supporters allege that Yeger has taken to wearing a wide-rimmed black hat, a sign that he is Hasidic, when campaigning among the Hasidim when he is in reality a modern Orthodox Jew. However, several sources close to Yeger maintain he is indeed Hasidim, and always has been, and too insinuate otherwise is akin to religious slander and a shonda (Yiddish for shameful act).

Two things are certain. Yeger is both a very religious Jew, and has strong and long governmental and political experience. But these types of allegations will continue to play out as this race becomes more heated.

Among the things to watch for in this race is how Greenfield and Yeger’s yeshiva and non-profit heads powerbase will play out against against Yoni Hikind’s youth and new movement Hasidim and Orthodx Jewish base wishing to make change within the existing structure of the community.


Chaim Deutsch Versus Steve Saperstein

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch
Steve Saperstein.

Th 48th District City Council contest between incumbent Democratic City Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Republican challenger Steve Saperstein could become surprisingly close.

The candidates are relatively equally funded and running in a conservative district including the Russian-immigrant heavy Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Homecrest.

Deutsch, who is excellent with constituent services and an able legislator, has also been a little slow to the dance in addressing two key quality of life issues – the party boats out of Sheepshead Bay and the growing homeless problem in the district.

Saperstein was born in Brooklyn, grew up and still lives in the district, and has a strong educational background that includes graduating from Midwood High School, receiving a B.A. in Metropolitan Studies from New York University and a J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law.

Saperstein also has an interesting back story in that while his hearing is perfect, his parents, Brian and Susan, and younger brother, Bruce, are deaf. This had a profound effect on Saperstein, who became fluent in American Sign Language as a young child in order to communicate with his own mom and dad.

This also led him to a career in special education, where he works to empower students with disabilities (and their families), to give them the same opportunity for success that all Americans are entitled. In this capacity, Saperstein also earned an M.A. in Deaf & Hard of Hearing Education from Hunter College (CUNY) and a second M.A. in School Leadership from Touro College.


35th District City Council Race

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo

Incumbent City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo dodged a major bullet in beating back challenger Ede Fox in the Democratic Primary and will very likely hold on to her seat for another term.

That said, the perception remains that she puts her own and real estate developer interests above the interests of her constituents. This perception was furthered when Democratic Party money man, and City Council Land-Use Chair David Greenfield played a key behind-the-scenes part in her primary election.

Cumbo will face Green Party Candidate Jabari Brisport and Republican Christine Parker in the general election.

Jabari Brisport
Christine Parker

Brisport, who grew up in Prospect Heights, is a progressive’s progressive in one of Brooklyn’s most progressive districts including Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. Parker is a courageous and proud spitfire candidate, a single mother of two and St.John’s University graduate.

On an interesting sidenote, this race has an African art angle.

Parker is also the Deputy Director of the excellent Cultural Museum of African Art, which KCP covered several months ago. This traveling museum, deperately in need of a home, recently curated an exhibit in Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza that included over 2,500 African tribal artifacts, spanning 24 countries and 4,000 years – the largest such collection in America.

Cumbo founded and is the former executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts (MoCADA). Under her tenure in the City Council, MoCADA has received from the city several million taxpayer dollars and a new home in the BAM Cultural District. Nonetheless, MoCADA is an important cultural institution that has curated a number of interesting art exhibits and events, including a musical book reading of KCP Founder Stephen Witt‘s debut novel, American Moses, the love story of an American Jew and his Caribbean-American wife.

The citywide general election is slated for Tuesday Nov. 7.

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