La Chaim! Former Nelson aide wins Dem nod for old boss’s seat

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Voters in the 48th Council District delivered an upset in Tuesday’s primary, selecting Flatbush Shomrim founder Chaim Deutsch over two Russian-speaking candidates in a district that was recently redrawn along ethnic lines to be a so-called “Super Russian District.”

Deutsch, former aide to incumbent Councilman Michael Nelson, snatched an unlikely victory from runner up Ari Kagan, a former journalist, and lawyer Igor Oberman, both Russian-speaking immigrant from the former Soviet Union, winning by a scant 300 votes.

The scene at Chaim Deustch’s Avenue U headquarters was electric as the polls closed and tallies rolled in. The audience was comprised of mostly religious Jews, with the exception of Deutsch’s old boss, Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay), who looked on with excitement over his trademark cigar, which he never lights and only chews.

The crowd seemed poised to call the race after only 90 percent of the vote was counted, and likely would have if it weren’t for the victor’s long-time friend and advisor Chaskel Bennett, who prudently would not allow any celebratory announcements until all the votes were in. However, despite the absentee ballots that remain uncounted, even Bennett couldn’t restrain the crowd from shouts of “La Chaim” as the agonizing last one-percent of the votes came in Deutsch’s favor.

“I am so humbled and grateful for the thousands of Brooklynites who came out today in support of my candidacy,” Deutsch said after the final tally. “Without them, this victory would not have been possible. I look forward to uniting our community and moving on towards victory in the general election and giving Southern Brooklyn the voice in the City Council that it deserves.”

Nelson spoke to the crowd that had gathered outside Deutsch’s campaign headquarters to praise his mild-mannered protégé.

“Sometime’s the nice guy wins,” said Nelson, “and this is an example of that.”

He also called for the Deutsch’s opponent in the general election, David Storobin, to concede defeat in favor of the better candidate.

“David [Storobin] is a really nice guy,” he said, “but you have to think about who is best for the job, and that’s Chaim.”

In Coney Island’s 47th Council District, frontrunner Mark Treyger won the Democratic nod by a wide margin, taking 45 percent of the vote. Community activist and union favorite Todd Dobrin came second with just over 28 percent. John Lisyanskiy, a former staffer for Council Speaker Christine Quinn, met a similar fate to his old boss, coming in a distant third. Lisyanskiy was the target of a ruthless smear campaign by Jobs 4 New York, a political action committee funded by developers which backed Treyger. A former aid to Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bath Beach), Treyger denied Lisyanskiy’s charge that he was a “puppet” of real estate interests, but did not denounce the group’s attacks.

One beneficiary of Jobs 4 New York’s largesse did speak out against its tactics and lavish spending, however. Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie), who won the 46th District primary, called the $120,000 the group spent on his behalf “an obscene amount of money.”

Maisel claimed victory over his Democratic opponent, businesswoman Mercedes Narcisse, Tuesday night and thanked his constituents for their support.

“I’m very gratified,” said Maisel. “It demonstrates that if you keep faith with the public, they’ll support you.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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