Southern Brooklyn

Kagan Defeats Longtime District Leader Mike Geller


While Ben Akselrod was narrowly defeated in his bid to unseat Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz at polls last Thursday, his ally and ticket-mate Ari Kagan emerged victorious in his campaign for district leader.

Kagan, a Russian-American reporter and activist, bested 24-year incumbent Mike Geller, head of the Highway Democratic Club, for the male district leader position in the 45th Assembly District. Kagan took home 1,818 – or 61.63 percent – of the paltry 2,950 votes cast, according to unofficial counts released by the Board of Elections. Geller received 686 votes less, for a total of 1,132, or 38.37 percent.

“I want to thank all my supporters and I promise to work hard on behalf of all neighborhoods and communities of our great and diverse 45 Assembly District,” Kagan wrote to Sheepshead Bites.

The district leader position, listed on the ballot as the Member of the State Democratic Committee, is an unpaid, nongovernmental representative. District leaders help pick the party’s chairman, appoint judges and hire poll workers. Though often under the radar for most voters, district leaders can play a pivotal role in local elections, helping organize grassroots efforts and sometimes directing the support – and campaign coffers – of the state or county party. Every assembly district has a male and female district leader.

The results of this election have not yet been certified by the Board of Elections. They are unofficial results from initial counts of ballots at the booths. This week, the board will add in numbers from ballot write-ins, absentee ballots and paper affidavits.

Comment policy


  1. What does this mean for the female district leader of the 45th? Will Ari Kagan appoint for himself a female district leader? I’m unclear of how this works.

  2. The male and female district leaders are both elected independently of each other. The incumbent female district leader, Pearl Siegelman, faced no opposition. She is also a leader in the Highway Democratic Club. So while the club will lose some influence as Geller’s power wanes, Siegelman still imbues it with some mojo.

  3. One more thought: Akselrod lost the election by only 7 percent. Now Kagan has more influence to support his preferred candidate. If he and other Russian politicos continue down the path of ethnocentric campaigning, our next assemblyman may very well be a Russian-American. 

  4. Kagan won with even less votes cast than was the case with the assembly race. The results may have to do as much with dissatisfaction over Lopez as any other factor. Some of Geller’s support base may have decided to sit out the election, neither choice being acceptable to them at this time.

  5. Exactly, people made a point of not voting in this race. And some probably did vote for Kagan with the thought that any change is better than the status quo.

  6. I don’t mind Russian Americans (although I prefer to say, i.e. Americans of Russian background).  I mind this district becoming Republican, that is my issue.

  7. Just to be clear on my own statement: it wasn’t a value judgement. I don’t care if my legislator is Russian, American, black, white, purple or half-dragon. It was just an observation that there appears to be a current push in the Russian-American community for Russian-American legislators, regardless of party or political leanings, and so that gives us a hint as to what’s may be in the future.

  8. As a member of the purple skinned Dragon-American community I’m glad to see us included in the demographics for the community. I realize we don’t make up a large portion but the recognition is a great first step. Ned, you truly are a mensch, or as we like to say in our native tongue: “RROOOAAAAARRRRR!!!!”

  9. They are not Russians. They are Jews from the soviet union. Most from Ukraine. Russians are smart enough not to come here.


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