Three key political figures from the Brooklyn’s Russian-American community today threw their support behind insurgent “Our Neighborhood” party candidate Yoni Hikind in his bid to beat Democratic candidate Kalman Yeger in the open 44th District City Council race.
Gregory Davidzon, president of Davidzon Radio and RTN, along with Ari Kagan, and Margarita Kagan (no relation), the male and female Democratic District Leaders of the 45th Assembly District all vowed to mount a Russian voter mobilization effort to elect Yoni Hikind in the general election on Nov. 7.
The district includes Borough Park and parts of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Kensington, Midwood and Sheepshead Bay – all of which has a number of Jewish and non-Jewish voters from the former Soviet Union.
“As a lifelong resident of the district, Yoni’s involvement in community issues has demonstrated that he is energetic, intelligent and caring,” said Davidzon, considered the go-to Brooklyn political operative when it comes to Russian votes. “From a very young age, Yoni heard a lot of stories from his father, [Assemblyman] Dov Hikind, a legendary fighter for the freedom of Soviet Jewry. Growing up and seeing his father in action, Yoni learned a very important lesson: When someone is in trouble, you must do all you can to fight for their rights and protection. He and his father were there for us, we must be there for him.”
Ari Kagan said he’s known Yoni Hikind for many years, and besides working with his father on issues important to Soviet Jewry, he’s impressed with Yoni’s grassroots work in the community with local residents as a trained therapist and social worker.
The endorsements and Yoni Hikind’s decision to run comes after current City Councilman David Greenfield hand-picking Yeger to replace him on the Democratic Party line after stepping down from the council to head the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council).
Ironically, Davidzon, and both Kagans’ endorsed Greenfield in his successful run against Joe Lazar to replace former City Councilman Simcha Felder when he stepped down seven years ago.
But Ari Kagan noted this race is much different from the one seven years ago, and Yeger is a much different candidate from Greenfield.
“Yoni Hikind is not Joe Lazar. He [Yoni] actually asked for our endorsement, came to a Bay Democratic Club meeting, and both he and his father made an outreach to us. He’s also a registered Democrat and only created his own party after Greenfield handed the line to Kalman,” said Ari Kagan.
Ari Kagan said another influence on the decision was all three previously endorsed City Councilman Chaim Deutsch in his run for reelection in the adjacent 48th City Council district representing Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Homecrest.
Yeger, who currently lives in Deutsch’s district and must move into the 44th District if he wins, had originally collected petition signatures and raised money to take on Deutsch. “We all [Davidzon and both Kagans’] said that this was not the right approach, but at the end of the day he dropped out of one race and went to another district,” said Ari Kagan.
Ari Kagan also noted that Yeger helped him when he ran for Deutsch’s seat four years ago. “I can only say good things about Kalman. He’s a very good political operative and election attorney,” said Kagan.
Kagan additionally warned not to take the former Soviet bloc of voters for granted. The orthodox Jewish vote split almost 50/50 in the Greenfield-Lazar race and almost 2,000 Russian voters showed up and Greenfield won by 2,000 votes, Ari Kagan said.
Yoni Hikind said he was honored and humbled to have such unanimous and strong backing from the leaders of the Russian community.
“Thanks to the efforts of fearless advocates like my father, there’s a vibrant Russian community here, and I find it amazing how this community established itself just several decades after migrating to the United States. I’m looking forward to continue helping the community thrive and succeed, and to working with all communities in enhancing the quality of life for all members of our neighborhood,” said Yoni Hikind.