Akselrod: Cymbrowitz won’t debate me

In it to win it: Ben Akselrod launched his Assembly campaign in Sheepshead Bay on Sunday.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Democratic Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowtiz is afraid to debate, the legislator’s challenger claimed this week as he lashed out against the six-term incumbent for not participating in a primary face off so he can attend a Russian film festival instead.

Former Community Board 15 District Manager Ben Akselrod, who hopes to unseat Cymbrowitz on Sept. 13, says the incumbent will forego the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center debate on Sept. 5 because he doesn’t want democratic voters to know how conservative he’s become.

“He’s advocating for contradictory positions,” said Akselrod, who was all too happy to speak out against his opponent in lieu of a debate. “He tells the Orthodox Jewish community that he’s a conservative democrat, but I see a conservative democrat who goes around on a spending spree using state money.”

Cymbrowitz said he agreed to debate several months ago, but was only informed of the actual date a few weeks ago — after he’d agreed to attend the Turkish and Russian Jewish Movie Night premiere.

“I did not decline the debate, as my opponent has suggested,” said Cymbrowitz. “It wasn’t until last week when they set the date.”

Akselrod said he has a folder full of questions to ask Cymbrowitz if he ever sees him in person. On his list are allegations that Cymbrowitz ignored community complaints against the Sheepshead Bay mosque being built on Voorhies Avenue — even though the mosque isn’t in the legislator’s district.

“He ignored over 1,000 signatures that were presented to him,” said Akselrod. “He did not take a position when the owner for the mosque and the lawyer for the mosque called the entire community of protestors racist and ignorant. These are people whose investments in their homes will be greatly affected by what is going on there and they called them racist. What did Cymbrowitz do? Nothing.”

With less than two weeks to go before primary day, no debates have been scheduled — but political insiders say that’s exactly how Cymbrowitz wants it.

“Akselrod’s got the double-barreled bonus of being an Orthodox Jew and a Russian,” said political analyst Hank Sheinkopf. “So why would Cymbrowtiz want to make that even further known by being on the same stage, and in front of a Jewish audience?”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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