By: Gary Tilzer
Analysis – The 48th Council District (CD) which includes the communities of Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Homecrest and Trump Village, has increasingly voted republican when given the chance. The 48th CD which voted 22,797 votes for Trump and 11,123 for Biden in 2020, has never elected a local republican office holder in a hundred years, except once in a special election. In one party New York City, the winner in the Democratic primary in the entire city except some districts in Staten Island and one or two districts in Queens, easily wins the general election. The reason why only one republican has won in the 48th CD that Trump won with 68% of the vote, comes down to accepted voter suppression in NYC.
Everyone knows that almost two million New York (mostly moderate) registered voters who do not belong to the Democratic party, are not allowed to vote, in the only elections that counts. In the 48th Council District, thousands of the Russian American voters who are not registered in any party or are registered Republican can only vote in the general election. The same is true for Orthodox Jewish voters in the district who have tended to register Republican in recent years.
Both groups who have not had any success in local elections as they only vote heavily in presidential elections and not in primaries or most general elections. The city council which has a bill to allow immigrants with green cards to vote in local elections, has not said a word about opening the primaries to all of NYC’s two million registered voters, who cannot vote in the election which picks their mayor, governor, congress member and other local elected officials.
The 48th CD, the most complicated district in the city to predict, has many more democratic registered voters than republicans. However, a large number of voters in the district who are pro-republican on the issues, registered as democrats to have a voice in local and state elections in the primaries. The district has over 20,000 registered voters that do not belong to the democratic party, who only mark their ballots in presidential general elections every four years.
This year Republican Inna Vernikov, a 37-year-old lawyer and Jewish Ukrainian native is running for the 48th city council district. Her real opponent in this race is voter turnout, not the democratic candidate she is running against. The more Trump voters who only vote in presidential elections, her campaign pulls out, the better chance she has to win. Vernikov is campaigning as a proud Trump supporter who voted for him in last year’s presidential race. “I did vote for Trump. He was the best president we’ve had for Israel and the Jews,” she said. Her Democratic Party opponent Steven Saperstein, refused to say who he voted for in the presidential race.
Saperstein is running as a “law and order” candidate because he’s backed by the city Police Benevolent Association and many other law enforcement unions and associations. Both candidates have pledged to restore funding to the NYPD that the council took away last year, Vernikov calls it her first priority. Both candidates are attacking the democratic party left-wing leaders like AOC, who have taken over almost all of Northern Brooklyn Council Districts. Saperstein believes seniors and people with disabilities must have access to quality care, affordable life resources and the ability to live without fear.
Vernikov said she wants to be a voice against the left-wing of the Democratic Party, which for example opposed the congressional bill to help fund Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system to protect the Mideast country from attacks. Vernikov called the growing opposition to the Jewish state among Democrats “very alarming.” Critics of the funding have included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Saperstein said, “I’m going to stand up against the crazy Democrats.”
On education, Vernikov said she would fight to expand school choices for parents and students — including promoting religious-based and charter schools as well as traditional public schools. The Democratic-run state Legislature has refused to lift the cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in New York City, a move that has blocked scores of new schools from opening. Saperstein who has been endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers recently declined to say whether he supported lifting the cap to open more charter schools. The son of deaf parents and a deaf brother, Saperstein learned sign language at a young age and became a teacher for students with disabilities. Saperstein is a co-founder of the Shorefront Coalition, a volunteer organization “dedicated to promoting civic engagement, aiding youth and seniors, and increasing broader participation in community affairs,” according to its Web site.
Saperstein who is campaigning door to door in the district knows how to pull out the votes as he proved in the primary. He beat Russian born Mariya Markh by 500 votes in a very low voting democratic primary, 3033 to 2576. Only around 9000 voters showed up in the 48th CD, while in some of the Brooklyn districts where left-wing candidates won had turnouts of over 40,000. A generation ago Southern Brooklyn which includes the 48th CD was the highest voting area of Brooklyn. Saperstein who knows how to pull votes has to target his vote carefully, to get out his vote. He has refused to debate on Russian TV station NTY according to his opponent’s campaign. Attempts to reach the Saperstein campaign for comment were unsuccessful.
Vernikov, who runs her own law practice, said she will advocate for small businesses and opposes turning restaurateurs and retail stores into essentially the health police by having them enforce COVID-19 public-health edicts. She also opposes vaccine mandates.
It is Impossible to Predict Turnout in Competitive Elections. In the Complicated 48th Council District as They Say in Brooklyn “Fuhgeddaboudit”
If the turnout is around the primary number of 9,210, Saperstein would be favored to win. If the turnout is close to half of the 2020 presidential turnout of 33,920. Vernikov will be favored to win. Will Vernikov catch fire with the Russian and Orthodox voters who only show up for Presidential election?
In the presidential 2020 election, there were 9,919 republicans and 8,318 voters who do not belong to a party (mostly Russian). Vernikov is pushing against Saperstein to generate interest in the district and press coverage of the race, to increase voter turnout, while Saperstein quietly targets his votes to pull in the general elections.
A canary in the coal mine warning for the outcome of this race is last years 46th Assembly District race, which only covers part of the 48th Council District. Incumbent Democratic Assembly member Mathylde Frontus was behind to Republican Mark Szuskiewich until the absentee votes were counted, in a district a republican has not won in 100 years.
Two old pros are running the Vernikov campaign, former Boro Park Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind and the only Republican to win in southern Brooklyn in over 100 years David Storobin, who defeated the late political operative Lew Fidler for a State Senate district that covers part of the 48th council district. The Storobin district was eliminated by redistricting months after he won. If Vernikov wins expect the council redistricting scheduled for 2023, controlled by a democratic mayor and council speaker to make attempts to cut up her district. If Saperstein wins, he will also face problems with redistricting.
Their biggest problem will be is that the other Russian district, the 47th, will also have to be cut up to make room for a badly needed Asian majority CD in Brooklyn. There is a real possibility that both the 47th and 48th district will be combined together as an east-west district along the Brooklyn shoreline. This is the opposite of what happened in 2002 after Domenic Recchia won a primary in which five Jewish candidates split the primary vote. In 2003 during redistricting, 40% of the Russian Jewish district was split off and put in another district.