Flatbush Shomrim founder Chaim Deutsch eked out a narrow, last-minute victory in his effort to replace his boss, Michael Nelson, as the City Council representative for the 48th District.
It was a tense night, showing a neck-in-neck race with rival Ari Kagan, a Russian-American journalist and activist also seeking the nod in the Democratic primary. From the moment the first voting precinct began reporting shortly after 9 p.m., until more than 85 percent of the votes were tallied, Kagan appeared to be in the lead. But as the final 15 percent of votes were counted, Deutsch pulled off a narrow victory, edging out the other top contender by just 300 votes.
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“This election is and has always been about the people. I ran to serve because serving the public is all I ever wanted to do. I hear the cry of help from the elderly. I feel the pain of parents who cannot make ends meet. And I understand the serious challenges facing every community in this district,” Deutsch said in his victory speech outside of his Avenue U campaign headquarters. “I pledge to be the leader who brings all of our communities together to make life better for all.”
Deutsch stood ringed by a multi-cultural group of supporters, hailing largely from the Orthodox Jewish community, as well as from the Asian and Muslim communities. He touted his ability to bring together a diverse coalition to overcome the demographic challenges that arose from redistricting, which turned the 48th Councilmanic District into a “Super-Russian District.”
“It is beautiful to see how many diverse neighborhoods came together to support me and my candidacy and this community and bring us to victory tonight,” he said.
Nelson, who celebrated with the candidate, boasted of Deutsch’s qualifications, character and accomplishments.
“Sometimes the nice guy wins, and this is an example of where it actually can happen,” Nelson said. “He’s been doing my job, so to speak, for a long time. He’s the go to guy when people have problems.”
But victory is not yet certain. Although Deutsch snagged 33.86 percent of the vote, Kagan is a close second, with 30.61 percent. The difference is not enough to trigger a manual recount as seen in the State Senate race between David Storobin and Lew Fidler, but the Kagan campaign said they’re not yet calling it quits.
“Right now it’s a close race. We’re going to wait for all the ballots to be counted,” said Kagan spokesperson Jake Oliver.
With scores of absentee ballots uncounted and reports of malfunctioning voting machines, the Kagan campaign could theoretically rally the 297 votes required to surpass Deutsch.
That fact didn’t seem to instill doubt on Nelson. On hearing the poll numbers come in, Nelson called on Republican David Storobin to pull out of the elections before November.
“Dave is a nice guy. But I think, for the sake of the community, he should concede,” Nelson told Sheepshead Bites. “David, you could be a really good guy, but the community would lose with you.”
Deutsch had his own words for his general election rival.
“You see all the people here?” he said, gesturing to the crowd. “That’s the message for David Storobin.”
But Storobin may not be the only opponent Deutsch has come November. Igor Oberman, who came in fourth with 14.37 percent of the vote, is also on the Working Families Party line. A concession statement from the campaign suggested that he may not seek the seat in the general election, but the campaign has not confirmed that as of this writing.
Following the results, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, who secured 18.31 percent of the vote, offered up a humbled thank you to her supporters via Twitter.
It was my deep honor and privilege to run for #CD48. I want to thank all of my campaign volunteers and those who voted for me.
— scavo4council (@scavo4council) September 11, 2013