Gentleman’s battle! Akselrod kicks off Assembly bid against Cymbrowitz

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

Former Community Board 15 District Manager Ben Akselrod launched his candidacy for state Assembly on Sunday without mentioning the 11-year incumbent he’s running against — setting the stage for what could be a gentleman’s race with Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay).

The former Community Board 15 district manager rallied dozens of supporters in front of Baku Palace on Emmons Avenue with a speech that described the Gravesend-to-Midwood district in broad terms, but did not make a single reference to Cymbrowitz — a reserved elected official who prefers to work behind-the-scenes on neighborhood issues and rarely seeks the spotlight.

“This district needs an assemblyman who understands the needs of this community,” said Akselrod.

The Soviet Union-born nursing home administrator vowed to improve the area’s public school system, transit services, and lower crime — all while highlighting his immigrant background and degrees from Touro College and Brooklyn College.

But he isn’t planning on slinging any mud at Cymbrowitz, he told BrooklynDaily.com.

“I’m not going to throw the first punch,” said Akselrod, who made his political bones as a legislative aide to former state Sen. Seymour Lachman in the early 1990s. “I don’t want to start my campaign by talking about Cymbrowitz.”

Cymbrowitz did not return several calls seeking comment.

Lachman said he hopes the race remains above board.

“Ben’s going to win on the merits,” said Lachman, who endorsed his former staffer at Akselrod’s campaign kickoff on May 6. “I hope it’ll be a gentleman’s campaign where the issues are discussed and there’s no name calling.”

But that could change quickly if Akselrod — a conservative Democrat — mounts a serious challenge in Sheepshead Bay, a right-leaning area that elected Rep. Bob Turner (R–Sheepshead Bay) last year and gave senate-hopeful David Storobin an election-night victory in March.

Cymbrowitz has never faced a strong opponent. But in 2010, his obscure Republican challenger Joseph Hayon caused a stir by capturing 43 percent of the vote in the general election, despite spending just $600.

Cymbrowitz entered January with a $119,766 warchest, according to the latest campaign finance records.

Akselrod declined to say how much money he’s raised so far.

The primary is scheduled for June 26.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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