Southern Brooklyn

Kagan Says Dirty Tricks Mired His Campaign, Offers Evidence Of Voter Suppression In Russian Community

One of the false poll site change postcards sent out to Russian speaking voters, according to Ari Kagan.
One of the false poll site change postcards sent out to Russian speaking voters, according to Ari Kagan.

Ari Kagan, who narrowly lost his bid for the Democratic nod during last week’s primary, is alleging that dirty campaigning from a rival candidate and an anonymous trickster helped bring down his candidacy, and has offered up evidence that suggests an effort to suppress the Russian vote in the 48th District.

According to Kagan, thousands of Russian-language postcards went out to voters of the 48th District, telling them that their poll site had been changed to a non-existent poll site in another district. Kagan said he found out about the dirty trick the night before the primaries as phone calls from supporters began trickling in to his campaign office as well as to his radio show on Davidzon Radio. He has since collected several dozen of them and supplied a copy of the one above to Sheepshead Bites.

It reads:

Information for election
Change location of your election site
Your new:
Co-op 2475 West 16th Street

The location given is actually in the 47th District, and there is no poll site there. Some voters as far away as Avenue O in Midwood received these, and all were in Russian language. They were sent from a Manhattan post office.

Now, Kagan is demanding the authorities look into the matter.

“It needs investigation. It’s a federal crime. We’re not talking about five people, 10 people. I realized how big a crime it was when people began calling me, my friends, my campaign office asking about their polling site,” he said, noting that he tried to minimize the damage by doing a robocall and a segment on his radio show informing voters that cards had gone out with false poll site information.

Kagan was not alone in his outrage.

“It’s absolutely reprehensible and I condemn any effort to intentionally mislead voters. We have to encourage people to be involved in the political process,” said Chaim Deutsch, who won Tuesday’s primary.

“This act was a violation of everything we hold dear in our country,” added Theresa Scavo, who finished in third. “Whoever did this criminal act took away certain individuals’ right to vote and may have caused an upset in the election process. The potential voters could have been on their way to vote for any of the candidates on the slate, maybe me. There should be a thorough investigation and justice must be served.”

The postcards lack a return address and any identifying information, so they’ll be hard to trace back to a source.

Kagan, though, said he suspects his fellow Russian-American candidate, Igor Oberman.

“I suspect it was the campaign that focused during the last week totally on me and not on the district. I suspect the campaign that was the dirtiest in all my memory. That would be Igor Oberman, who┬áran a divisive, nasty, dirty campaign,” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “But this is a suspicion, I have to prove it.”

When asked for comment about the postcards and Kagan’s allegations, Oberman’s campaign offered the following statement: “Neither the campaign nor Igor Oberman have any knowledge of voter suppression tactics of any kind used during the Primary Campaign in the 48th District City Council race.”

Kagan said he believes it’s Oberman because Oberman is the only campaign that went negative, and focused all of its attack ads on Kagan and no other candidate. He cited the CFB complaints we previously reported on, as well as misleading ads taken out by the Oberman campaign alleging Kagan would eliminate Section 8 housing and rent stabilization. He said Oberman booked no such attack ads against other candidates in the race, and none of the other candidates had negative ads at all.

While it would appear that a suppression of Russian-American voters would hurt Oberman as much as Kagan, however, Kagan pointed out that Russians appear to have voted for Kagan over Oberman at a rate of five to one. He suspects that Oberman’s campaign was not aiming to be victorious, but rather to keep a Russian-speaking candidate off the Democratic ballot in order to benefit Republican candidate David Storobin, who Kagan said Oberman is friends with.

The allegation echoes that recently made by Councilman Lew Fidler, who claimed Oberman was a “mole” for Storobin, and had passed the Republican details of Fidler’s campaign strategy while volunteering for him during the 2012 special election in which Storobin and Fidler faced off.

Oberman declined to respond to the charge, but Storobin dismissed it outright.

“That’s completely false. It’s preposterous on so many fronts. First of all, I wish I was that charismatic to get them to throw themselves under the bus for me, but I don’t think I am,” he said. “I think the logical suggestion is that it would be one of the non-Russian candidates in the race, because it’s targeting Russian votes.”

He added that he and Oberman are not friends, but merely friendly acquaintances, although he did not account for why the Democrat contributed to his recent State Senate campaign.

He also said Oberman’s campaign did not bare the marks of one that was attempting to split the Russian vote, with the candidate having focused his spending on younger Russians and non-Russians, rather than the elderly Russians that comprise Kagan’s base.

“You can follow the money trail with most things, and the money trail shows he wasn’t going after Ari’s base. He was going after the young Russians and non-Russians. The amount of money he spent on Russian media was less than 10 percent. It defies all logic,” he said.

Kagan’s argument also appears weakened by the announcement this morning that Oberman would continue his campaign as a third party candidate, which would most likely detract from Storobin’s support from the Russian community.

Prior to the announcement, though, Kagan remained convinced.

“Do I believe [Oberman] was doing it for Storobin? I have a lot of reasons to suspect this. A lot of reasons . And of course, both of them will deny it,” he said. “Igor Oberman served his purpose. He bashed Ari Kagan, and he took some votes away from Ari Kagan. That’s why Storobin didn’t bash Oberman or anyone else. Just me, me, me,” he said, referring to Storobin’s lone attack during the entire campaign.

Comment policy


  1. That sounds quite feasible. As much as I don’t like most of these guys, I find it hard to believe that any one of them would be dumb enough to stoop this low, at least without significantly distancing themselves from it.

  2. The day before the election I received the only campaign literature that made me laugh out loud. It was made to look like a beige file folder labeled “Top Secret Mission” and it was supposed to be the folder for “A. Kagan”.

    Inside it said in English and Russian, “Your mission once elected is to: End Rent Stabilization, represent landlord interests.., From the Real Estate Board of NY”

    I was curious to see who sponsored it and in 8 point black type on a dark brown background it said, “Paid for by Igor 2013.” Guess he wasn’t proud of it.

    I wonder how many were sent out and who remembers getting it. Doesn’t say too much for Igor.

  3. Anybody here who worked on Russian Dolls? I have a new terrible reality TV show idea. I read BBC, Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, and even Gothamist, but nothing compares to the entertainment value of South Brooklyn politics.

    That said… I dislike Kagan. I don’t agree with Kagan. I wouldn’t vote for Kagan. And I’m glad Kagan didn’t get ellected, but whoever sent out these postcards needs to be found, tried, and made to pay for what is malicious crime.

    My grandmother is a Russian speaking woman in her 70s who votes in every election. Thankfully she did not receive one of these cards but I know that, if she did, she would have taken the bus to the address listed and, unable to find a polling site, she would go back home. At her age there is no way she would have taken another bus to her actual polling site to see if she could vote there. She would assume that the location changed but she was unable to figure it out. This would be a vote lost for the candidate of her choice. I’m sure she’s not the only one.

    It is insane, and Kagen is right to demand an investigation.

  4. I agree- I dont like Kagan, but for these cards to be sent out like this.?? I cannot imagine how many people traveled so far to find nothing. – aside the fact that it was very illegal…

  5. Sorry for posting multiple comments on this, but I wanted to add that the Russian on these cards is very Google Translate-y. It does not sound like it was written by a native Russian speaker. Might be a clue.

  6. Shame on David Storobin for suggesting that Chaim Deutsch, his opponent in the general election, may have been behind this act. Until he has evidence to support his assertion, he needs to shut up and stop smearing his opponent in the general election. His unfounded accusations make him look like just another irresponsible politician whose only interest is furthering his political ambitions.

  7. It was definitely Chaim… he ran a very dirty campaign. He even paid minorities off the books to vote for him. Ask people on Emmons Ave.

  8. On the other hand, I had the whole recycle can full of “Jobs for NY” (AKA Kagan’s PAC) scrap papers. I just kept taking them out of my mailbox and dumping them in the can, day after day…
    At least “Igor 2013” is what it says, unlike “Jobs for NY” oxymoron.

  9. Bottom line: this was the dirtiest local campaign that I remember (since 2000, that is). That is why I’m proud to have voted for Natraj Bhushan. Most likely I’m going to write-in his name in the general election. I can’t picture myself voting for any of the running candidates, and I have not missed an election ever.

  10. i don’t hide behind fake names here. I spoke out here, on Twitter and during the campaign against Kagan. I thought the ads done by his cronies in Jobs4NY were an outrage. However, reading this article, I am more pissed about this .Ari is correct with his outrage. The persons whose civil rights were violated were the individual voters. While we might assume that we think we know who they would vote for, we actually don’t know. That is why it is a secret ballot. This action is a clear violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Someone should call the Voting Rights Section of the Department of Justice, and the United States Attorney for Eastern and/or Southern District of New York. While we might assume that we know who these voters would have voted for, we actually don’t know. That is the danger here. Theoretically, Igor, Ari, Theresa or Chaim would have won if an overwhelming majority of these voters voted for one of them. That is the danger with this criminal action. It affected the entire integrity of the election process. What is the only fair legal solution for these voters? It most likely will be up to the Courts to decide. I just ask that they do it promptly so we can have a Democratic Party candidate certified by the Board of Elections before the November General Election.

  11. Guys, come on. It was probably Ari himself, he was sending out information cards and in true Kagan fashion blundered the address. After he realized what happened he decided to blame it on election fraud.

  12. I did not plan to take a part in this conversation, but some comments made me put my five cents. If Ari wants an investigation, let it be and he is right to go for it. But accuse Igor Oberman of committing federal crime just because he feels that he lost because of Igor being in this race is disgusting. JobsforNY spent hundreds thousands of dollars trashing Ari’s opponents. He never condemned such acts like other candidates did. I have somebody is mind who, in my opinion, might be responsible for it but will keep it to myself until investigation is over.
    I know people who received these cards. Not even one went to West 16, none!
    Davidzon radio run an ad the whole day with the phone number to call in case people don’t know where to vote. So, people could call. These postcards is an example of a low life behavior. Let’s wait, we will know the truth, I hope.
    And advice to Ari, stop crying, get a life and a real job. Stop campaigning 24/7.
    And one more comment. To say that Chaim might be responsible for this crime, one must be in idiot or Storobin troll.

  13. I made a comment some time ago that I’m just going to run for City Council, but without a campaign. Or rater, my campaign strategy will be the lack of a campaign. I figure most people are like me and hate all of the current candidates so much that they’ll just vote for the one guy they’ve never heard of.

  14. On my part it was more or less an educated decision.
    I read Mr. Bhushan’s program, followed by an article (here) about his responses in a debate.
    Then I did the same for the other candidates, as much as I could. In the end, the choice was easy.

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