Former Sunset Park pol runs for her old seat

The rumors are true! Former Sunset Park Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez is looking to take back her seat.

Gonzalez — who already has $49,145 in her war chest without having officially announced her campaign — won a special election in 2002 and served 10 years in the Council until freshman Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) ousted her in a 2013 primary upset. He then went on to win the 2013 general election.

But after a nearly four-year break from City Hall, Gonzalez says she’s ready to get back to politics and support the community — which she says has come to her for help.

“People kept calling me and coming to me. I continue to do a lot of the community work. I’m very in-touch with the community. They’re not happy with whatever is being offered or being done today,” said Gonzalez during a phone call on May 16. “The community has reached out to me, so everyone is obviously not content, everyone is not feeling that they have a leader they want to continue to have.”

Getting unseated as an incumbent was a blow to Gonzalez, but she’s learned from that experience and is eager to jump back in, she said, and plans to make a formal campaign launch in the next few weeks.

“I think sometimes in life you kind of learn from your experiences. Losing was not something I was excited about but, you know, it gave me a chance to breathe,” she said. “I’m putting my campaign together and I have a lot of folks that genuinely care and want to do this, and I’m moving forward. I’m excited.”

Despite having served two four-year terms — in addition to two years after filling the empty seat during a special election — Gonzalez can still go on to serve another two terms, because the term-limit law only applies to consecutive terms, according to a spokeswoman for City Hall.

But not so fast, said a spokesman for Menchaca’s campaign. Menchaca unseated Gonzalez for a reason, and the loss must have sent her into hiding because she’s only coming out now to run again.

“Sara Gonzalez was perennially absent for the decade she was in the City Council, despite voting to give herself a third term. Now, after four years of being invisible, Sara is calling on her real-estate and special interest friends after Democrats resoundingly rejected her,” said Matthew Rey. “Carlos Menchaca has an unimpeachable record as a citywide leader who is standing up for his community and Immigrants, and Carlos will continue to be a strong progressive voice against President Trump and the super-wealthy special interests.”

Menchaca officially announced his re-election bid on May 13 and currently has $83,439 in his campaign coffers. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park) is also rumored to be mulling a run against him in the September primary.

• • •

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Midwood), who has repeatedly accused Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour of being a “terrorism propagandist” and “terrorist advocate,” proudly recalls and defends his time as a member of the radical right-wing group, the Jewish Defense League, according to the Huffington Post, which reported that he was a high-ranking member of the FBI-deemed terrorist organization in the 1970s.

Hikind has been calling on the City University of New York to rescind its invitation to Sarsour to speak at its June 1 commencement for the School of Public Health, and has been calling out the Muslim Bay Ridgite for supporting violence and terrorism on Twitter nearly daily since April 21.

But in a letter to the HuffPost and now shared with this paper, Hikind says he was “proud” to be part of the Jewish Defense League, which was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane of Brooklyn in 1968 and described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a radical organization that preaches a violent form of anti-Arab, Jewish nationalism.”

“Over 43 years ago, I was very proud to be part of the Jewish Defense League. After all, the notion of Jews standing up for themselves was still rather novel to some who preferred when Jews didn’t,” said Hikind in the letter. “I came late to the organization but was gratified to work on behalf of Soviet Jewry, Syrian Jewry, fighting anti-Semitism and helping the Jewish poor. These were the days of the Civil Rights movement and people everywhere were awakening to the necessity of getting involved.”

And Hikind was an active member of the group during many of the years it was responsible for several bombings, shootings, and attacks nationwide, according to the HuffPost, as recorded by the Anti Defamation League.

The hypocrisy in Hikind’s rhetoric is disturbing, especially for a man who once wore blackface, said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood), who has called out the long-time state pol for ignoring the injustices of other communities, especially those of color.

“I think it goes to my basic point of the hypocrisy behind a lot of this. I sent a tweet just reminding folks of his blackface and obviously there’s issues around him in particular and thoughts about him in the black community for years,” said Williams. “It seems to me a lot of the people who are most ardent about calling Linda these things are the same people who don’t speak up for equity and many other justices occurring.”

And again, Williams called for peace and leadership among all the pols.

“That’s my hope is that folks will just cool down and calm down and Linda will get her speech as she should,” he said.

• • •

Former Sheepshead Bay Councilman Mike Nelson officially endorsed his successor, Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) on May 14, after suspiciously showing up at a fund-raiser for his rumored challenger Kalman Yeger two weeks before.

But Yeger, who is still undeclared, has already outraised the incumbent with $84,615 in his campaign coffers. Deutsch has $73,640 in his war chest, according to city records.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

More from Around New York