Southern Brooklyn

In Race To Replace Nelson, Oberman Leads The Pack In Fundraising But Opponents Catching Up

Clockwise from top left: Theresa Scavo, Igor Oberman, Chaim Deutsch, Ari Kagan

It’s a crowded race to replace term-limited Councilman Michael Nelson of the 48th District, which, come next year, will represent almost all of Sheepshead Bay.

But, so far, it’s been quiet as the campaigns are just gearing up. But a good indicator of a campaign’s strength and public support is their fundraising, and yesterday the candidates submitted their finance disclosure forms to the Campaign Finance Board, revealing their fundraising success – or struggles – and giving a better idea of who’s in it to win it.

Here’s a quick rundown of the amounts raised, spent, and left on hand as of May 11, with some analysis below. Candidates are presented in order of amount left on hand.

  • Igor Oberman (D), attorney and Brooklyn Borough President community liaison
    • $94,158 (raised) – $10,237 (spent) – $83,920 (on hand)
  • *Theresa Scavo (D), chairperson of Community Board 15
    • $69,437 – $0 – $69,437
  • Chaim Deutsch (D), Nelson aide and Flatbush Shomrim founder
    • $74,819 – $5,423  $69,396
  • Ari Kagan (D), 45th Assembly District Leader
    • $52,550 – $13,782 – $38,768
  • *Michael Treybich (D), attorney
    • $21,462 – $7,889 – $13,573
  • Natraj Bhushan (D), attorney
    • $1,827 – $853 – $974
  • David Storobin (R), former State Senator
    • $0 – $0 – $0

Before we go any further, let’s explain those asterisks.

Scavo’s $69,437 includes $29,767 from a previous bid for Nelson’s seat, which she dropped after term limits were extended. In this race, she’s raised $39,670 and transferred over the rest – which gave her a bit of a head start compared to the others.

Meanwhile, Michael Treybich failed to submit his CFB filing on time, so those numbers go to March 11, not May 11. Furthermore, his campaign account is linked to the 47th District, where he previously planned to run before redistricting tossed his residence into our area.

Additionally, Bhushan, who doesn’t have much of a profile in the district, hasn’t managed to attract many donations (though we at Sheepshead Bites are firm believers that money ain’t everything, and we’ll be keeping an eye on him). Storobin, meanwhile, hasn’t raised a dime – but without a primary contender, his season doesn’t really kick off until later in the year.

So for the remainder of this analysis, we’ll be looking at the four who appear to be the big Democratic primary contenders at the moment: Oberman, Scavo, Deutsch and Kagan.

Oberman has the indisputable edge in fundraising. Even after spending more than $10,000 on his campaign, he leads his closest rival, Scavo, by more than $14,000. Scavo and Deutsch are neck-in-neck with money on hand, but Deutsch has already been out spending to promote himself while Scavo hasn’t spent a penny. Kagan has spent the most on himself, and also raised the least of the four – surprising, given that he has the backing of the Kings County Democratic Club and had been considered a lead contender.

First, let’s look at those donations, and where they’re coming from.

In terms of sheer numbers, Oberman is again in the lead. He’s brought in 267 contributors, with an average donation of $353. Kagan may not have brought in big donations, but he’s not all that behind Oberman in the number of contributors, with 248 (average donation is $212). Deutsch received contributions from 222 source, and they gave almost as much on average as they gave Oberman – $337.

Scavo, however, falls behind in the number of contributions, with only 140 – although it’s important to note that’s only of the funds raised this season, not from the influx of cash she received in the previous race that transferred over. The average contribution size was $283. It’s also important to note that Scavo is the only candidate for whom the majority of her cash (again, this season) came from out of the five boroughs. Of the 39,670 she raised this season, $21,485 came from outside New York City, and $18,185 from within. That means many of her donors are ineligible to vote for her.

Sticking with Scavo for moment, let’s look at who’s donating. There are a lot of familiar names to those active in the community: Community Board members, civic association members and members of the Highway Democratic Club (which is backing her). Conspicuously absent is a bevvy of Eastern European surnames – although there are some – which can prove an obstacle in a district where the Russian-Americans are now the largest voting bloc.

Of course, Scavo might not be shedding any tears about that. Both Oberman and Kagan received strong financial support from those with Eastern European last names – and, mind you, guessing ethnicity from a last name is no science – and Scavo might be betting that they split the Russian vote, giving her an advantage.

But that would give Deutsch the same advantage, and he’s not only leading her financially and in the number of donors, but his donor list appears varied and diverse, with support from the Orthodox Jewish and Sephardic communities, as well as Asian and South Asian communities (for what it’s worth, Kagan also has support from the Asian communities, likely due to his previous work for Comptroller John Liu).

We’re going to take a look at those who’ve given the most in a later story, but suffice to say that Oberman is taking some heat for taking large contributions from those who do business with the Trump Village co-op board where he serves as president.

As for where they’re spending their money, it’s pretty predictable. While Scavo hasn’t spent a penny, and appears to have former district leader Michael Geller running her campaign (he who previously lost his position to Kagan), the other three have spent big bucks with political consulting firms. All four have hired consultants. Kagan has hired Hudson TG; Deutsch has Mercury Public Affairs; and Oberman has the The Advance Group. We’ve learned that Scavo has hired Hank Sheinkopf of Sheinkopf Communications after the filing period ended, so it is not disclosed in the reports. (Updated)

We’re going to go a little more into those later, but this post has already taken up more space than intended.

The real takeaway from all this? At the moment there are four well-funded primary contenders appealing to different segments of the community, and three of them with high-powered consulting firms behind them. Campaign season is officially here, and it looks like it’s going to be heated.

UPDATE (5/17/2013 @ 12:15 p.m.): Mike Geller called to inform us that he was not running Scavo’s campaign. He adds that Scavo has hired Hank Sheinkopf, president of Sheinkopf Communications, to consult. The hiring took place after the filing period ended, and is not included in the latest disclosure report.

We have amended the story to reflect this.

Comment policy


  1. Thank you Sheepshead Bites for truly “fair and balanced” reporting. I urge all readers to do their research before casting their ballot. A simple google search of each candidate from time to time can be enough to become somewhat well-informed.

  2. I don’t know who the other two are so I will comment on Theressa and Kagan.

    I saw both of them at last years Holocaust Park memorial. It was the only time I saw Theressa. She had on her face an expression of utter contempt, did not talk to anyone and just set in the corner looking grouchy. The whole time she was playing with a cigarette trying as hard as she can not to light it up. I was waiting for her to start smoking so I could tell her to put it out and stop breaking the law. Amazingly enough she restrained herself but it was obvious that it took her will power. How can anyone vote for this woman I don’t know.

    Kagan on the outside looks like likable guy but I think that’s just a ploy. For one, his English is fairly terrible even by Russian community standards and I say this as a Russian. How could anyone who is not Russian vote for him I can not imagine. I mean, if you are going to vote on city laws you should at least be able to read and understand them. Also, because Russian seniors are his main support group he seems to be attracted to them like a moth to a flame. At every community event I see him running to hug Russian senior citizens. And as much as we love our Russian grandparents a more ignorant voting block you will not find since many believe that Obama is a muslim, Putin is a great leader, and America in general is inferior to the U.S.S.R. Some people have a hard time letting go. All Ari needs to do to get their vote is to promise that he will stop Obama if he tries to take their benefits and they will throw themselves at his feet.

    That’s my analysis for now. Hopefully we will have someone worthy who knows what they are doing throw their hat into the election. I would hate to see a total baboon represent us in case another Sandy hits.

  3. I tend to agree with this analysis. As someone closely following this race, don’t mind checking out Chaim Deutsch. The name might scare non-Orthodox Jews, but it shouldn’t. He puts his money where his mouth is. Before, during, and after Sandy, he was out in Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach & Sheepshead Bay assisting in any and every way possible. If this election is won based on most deserving, Chaim would win.

  4. So true. He never get any position, never get any real job.
    He just walking from one event to next one, makes the pictures
    and ask for money.. He is 0.

  5. Theresa Scavo,
    Nothing nice to say.

    Igor Oberman,
    Nice guy with good intentions. Not sure what he has done.

    Chaim Deutsch,
    Nice guy with good intentions. Helped people from day 1. Best choice for the community.

    Ari Kagan,
    Dangerous person because he will lie and smile in your face. And back stab you. If he wins, he may become the most crooked politician in history. He may give Russian Speaking communities a bad name and reputation.

    If the election are based on the merit and the best qualified person, Chaim Deatsch should win.

    Ari Kagan has a chance because he made alliances with politicians. I support you, you support me. For example, Eric Adams and more. He used his latest democratic party win to build relationships and deals.

  6. I think everyone should go with Scavo, I hope you do, – she was a top notch Sheepshead Bay businesswoman for years and years, then she ran the community board- I see her at a million and one events around South Brooklyn. Even though she has an italian surname she is Haimeshe and a better friend to the Jews and Eastern European surnames than most of the guys she is running against. She actually has led an organization with people in it, unlike the guys she is up against who fetch coffee for the guys they work for and stand behind them at events. None of them is of the same experience or quality as her.Teresa is smart, funny, a leader with great values and an outstanding moral compass. Plus she knows how to get things done-she is definitely not all talk-but all about action. Hey listen with all these guys running- it looks like 6 of them- I go with the woman everytime. Plus I like that she is always talking on that damn headset in her ear to her constituents who she gives her number too. You can reach her anytime. Go with Scavo.

  7. Wasn’t Scavo the one who proclaimed that Russians don’t understand American history or values. A friend of the Eastern Europeans indeed.

  8. Angry residents of a Coney Island co-op say they’re living in an American-style gulag, thanks to their iron-fisted, Soviet-born board president.

    The animosity between the Trump Village residents and their co-op president, Igor Oberman, 45 — who works as a prosecutor for the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission and is poised to run for City Council — has already led to a series of legal skirmishes.

    “[Oberman] thinks it’s 1938 in the Soviet Union,’’

  9. Lara
    The only one Russian political figure I believe is Ari Kagan, he always helps people (remember Sandy and many other situations) and he knows our problems. Never heard from somebody who knows him that he lies, he keeps his word and would be the best as a lieder.

  10. Ari help? You probably blind . IN. his life he can help only one person. Himself. Lier. Big one and most dangerous person.
    People wake and smell the coffee.
    Be aware of him. Stop him before he’ll destroy everything.

  11. As community figures go they might be ok, but as legislators, none of them seem like a capable candidate.

  12. Mr. Burke, you should really examine how Oberman got so much money, considering he did NOTHING for anyone in the district. He fled during Sandy to salvage his vehicle and showed up the following day. He gained the support of the gay and lesbian community, but what has he done for them, except be an open homophobe. You should do your homework as a reporter. Shame on you. He is forcing his management to lie, cheat, and steal and we are afraid for our jobs. He is worse than any dictator.

  13. Ask once what he did all the time . Where he was working, we are not talking about walking around. He always do for publicity show off.
    He is not real .He befriend all his friends, because he used them already. He used people like condoms
    Used and put in the garbage.
    And get next one.

  14. I have been following this race closely from the beginning and was very surprised to see Igor Oberman jump out in front of all the other candidates in fundraising so quickly. His phenomenal fundraising results are particulalry outrageous to me since Igor Oberman has no experience fundraising nor any background in politics.

    Where is this money coming from? How is he able to raise more money more quickly than the Democratic District Leader, a longtime political aide to the current Councilman, and the Chairperson of the local community board?

    Today, I received the answer from one of the residents of the Trump Buildings.

    Igor Oberman’s campaign offered cash in exchange for check donations. They asked people to give them a check for some amount so that the campaign could get matching funds from the campaign finance board. In exchange, for the donation, they gave the donor cash equal to the amount of the donation.

    Unfortunately, since the dealings were in cash, I am not aware of any way to prove this story. But, the person that told me this has no interest in the race and offered this information just in casual conversation. I am positive that if you interview a few individuals who donated to Mr. Oberman’s campaign that you will see that this is in fact the case.

    I do not know if it is illegal to pay people cash for them to give you a donation by check in order to get matching funds from the campaign finance board but it is certainly ethicly questionable. I urge democrats to not vote for Oberman and to look much more carefully at the candidates standing for election before them.

    Some of these Russian political candidates seem to be trying to use “Soviet Political Tactics” to win the Democratic nomination. Please choose wisely to avoid future political scandals due to candidates with questionable morals. Our community needs good, honest leadership, not deal-making crooked politicians like Carl Kruger and Igor Oberman.

    Readers of this blog – please pressure the campaign finance board to investigate this matter! If all donations were collected legally, Oberman has nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, I know that a thorough investigation will uncover the truth behind how Igor Oberman raised so much money so quickly.

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