Can an Orthodox Jewish woman with a popular and intelligent comedic social media presence navigate her way through the rough-and-tumble world of Caribbean politics and replace Public Advocate-elect Jumaane Williams to represent the 45th City Council District?
The answer will come in the next few months as Adina Sash, a.k.a. Flatbush Girl, told KCP today that she is running to fill the vacant seat.
The Brooklyn native is currently residing just outside the district, which is about 20 percent Jewish and mainly Afro-Caribbean, but said she will soon have a permanent residence in the district in time for the election.
“I am running, yes. I actually lived in the district from 1990 to 2010 and I always wanted to move back there. It’s my neck of the woods. I am currently living with my parents while me and my family look for a more permanent residence in the district,” said Sash.
Sash has hit the ground running, already starting to fund-raise for the highly competitive election and to start the petitioning process for the upcoming June special election.
“For now we are operating as if there is just a primary in June and then once the Mayor gives his signal for the special election. We will get signatures from all voters. The primary is already set for June. As far as I know, we need around 1,000 signatures but I’m aiming for more,” said Sash.
“I have begun fundraising and took my courses with the CFB (Campaign Fiance Board). I have some upcoming small fundraisers. With matching funds, I will definitely be able to have a strong campaign,” added Sash.
This is a second run for the political newcomer, who made her political debut last year challenging longtime Democratic District Leader Margarita Kagan for female democratic district leader in the 45th Assembly District. Sash didn’t win, but learned some valuable lessons including how to move her 45,000 social media followers into voters.
“I think I learned a lot about the political landscape from running for district leader. Some parts I became jaded about and some parts I became optimistic about. I’m just having more of a sense of what’s going on and I’m based more in reality. I think learning from the district leader race is helping me understand more of a strategy for this race,” continued Sash. “I am understanding the translation from creating a message that resonates on social media versus a message that resonates and actually moves people to take a call to action. Like voting.”
The 45th District includes East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Midwood. Sash says that though the district leans heavily to the Caribbean and black demographics, she is looking to represent all residents of the 45th Council District equally.
“I am confident that I can represent Carribeans. I really do feel that way. When I am talking to potential voters, and people in the district. When I am in Flatbush Junction, I feel so at home to whomever I speak to because this is where I grew up. This is my hometown. At the end of the day I understand the struggles and financial burdens of the working class. My only goal is to make things more affordable and to really fight for education, to fight for affordable housing, to fight for affordable transportation. The more we can make family unit living more affordable, the more we can keep our families in tact and give our children the best shot at a future,” said Sash.
Sash said another difference between the district leader role and the city council seat is the salary. District leaders make nothing The starting salary for a City Council member is $148,500 plus benefits that would make most private sector workers who live in the district feel like the real lords of Flatbush.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful because I value what our city council members do, but $150,000, do you think that’s a little ridiculous? We have people that can barely put food on the table and the cost of living is astronomical in the city. That is why I have pledged 50% of my salary to pump back into the 45th Council District for non-profit organizations that keep the district safe and that help the district flourish. No one needs that much money to live,” said Sash.
Though looked at by many as a radical frum (Orthodox) woman, Sash says she thinks of herself as progressive in certain areas, but in total alignment with the conservative Jewish community on Jewish matters.
“I feel like I’m a hybrid in that most of my views are very progressive, but when it comes to certain nuances within the Jewish community. Like my views on Yeshivas and Israel are very much in line with the community,” said Sash.
Sash is also not expecting much support from Jewish powerbrokers like Josh Mehlman, chairman of the paternalistic Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, even if she is every bit as orthodox as Mehlman and the organization, and shares many of their values.
On the other side, it will be interesting to see if the Afro-Caribbean community will give Sash a fair listen. Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park), who represents part of the district in the assembly, first won her seat in a bitter 2014 election against longtime incumbent and religious Jew Rhoda Jacobs in a bitter election where the race card was well-played.
On the plus side, Sash entry into the race now splits the field seven ways, across a broad spectrum of community activists and longtime political operatives. This includes Bichotte’s mentee, Farah Louis, Monique Chandler-Waterman, who has the support of Assembly Member Nick Perry (D-East Flatbush), community activist Anthony Beckford, and Jovia Radix, who has the support of Kings County Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio.
Sash is a mother of two boys and holds a master’s degree in Medieval literature from Brooklyn College.
“When running it’s not only about having the endorsement from the establishment but it’s about the people. My campaign is about the grassroots and having that one-to-one connection with voters because I don’t have the institutional support from any system or any machine. I think that speaks volumes about the kind of campaign I’m running. I think it attest to the altruistic part of what I’m trying to accomplish,” said Sash.