When it comes to fundraising for his campaign, congressional hopeful Jeff Kurzon has raised nothing.
And that’s the way he prefers it. Kurzon, a Democrat, who first ran in 2014 and lost by a large margin, is once again up against long-time incumbent Nydia Velázquez and Yungman Lee, a Manhattan-based banker.
Kurzon said that his decision to run again after his loss in 2014 is due, in large part, to the wave of energy generated by Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
“I saw the energy from the Sanders campaign, and decided to throw my hat back into the ring,” said Kurzon, who claims to have more than 150 volunteers working on his campaign. “Voters should have a legitimate choice in candidates, so we need more people with more ideas and values to run for office.”
Like Sanders, Kurzon says his main objective is to separate big money from politics.
“The process of raising money is strange to me, because there’s no connection between the money and community problems,” said Kurzon. “I don’t think the $100,000 I raised in 2014 made an impact, so this time I said I’ll just connect with voters without money.”
Kurzon, an attorney with a small law practice in lower Manhattan where he represents small businesses, has also represented journalists “who stood up to big media for not paying for their work,” according to his campaign site.
When it comes to Sunset Park, Kurzon says he hopes to embrace its diversity and make sure every voice, regardless of immigration status, is heard in Congress.
He also recognizes the senior population in Sunset Park as a major group of potential constituents.
“A lot of seniors live in Sunset Park, and they’re concerned about social security,” said Kurzon. “When in Congress, I will support expanding social security and social services for seniors. Many Sunset Park seniors have told me how they want to take computer classes. That’s a simple thing that can easily happen.”
Though Kurzon has never held public office, this is not his first foray into politics. For the 2008 presidential election, Kurzon organized one of the largest grassroots movements in support of President Barack Obama, according to his campaign site. For the 2016 presidential election, Kurzon joins a growing pool of candidates for public office who have endorsed Sanders.
Then Thursday, Kurzon had the opportunity to meet the senator himself at a town hall-style meeting in Midtown, Manhattan. Kurzon was invited backstage to meet with Sanders and discuss the future of the movement they have been calling a “political revolution.”
“Young people are flocking to Bernie because he’s the real deal,” said Kurzon. “Now, I’m on stage with Bernie. It’s really nice to be honored that way by a future president.”
It’s hard not to see the parallels between Kurzon’s campaign and the Sanders campaign that took the country by storm this year. Campaign financing is a major topic for both candidates and both have goals of establishing themselves as the candidate more in touch with the voters. Kurzon says this especially makes him stand out from Velázquez.
Kurzon cited the state of public housing, which was built 70 years ago, but with a “shelf-life of 80 years” as evidence of his opponent’s ineptitude.
“What’s our plan to rebuild public housing in New York City?” said Kurzon. “Nydia is ineffective and out of touch. She lives in a luxury condo two blocks outside of the district — which may as well be miles away from a dilapidated NYCHA building. During her tenure, things have just gotten worse.”
While he lost to Velázquez — a local powerhouse is in her twelfth term and has held that office for 24 years — in 2014, Kurzon did receive nearly 20 percent of the vote.
“Almost everyone I speak with in the district — from Woodhaven to Red Hook — thinks it’s time for Rep. Velazquez to step out of public service because she is bought by the corporate and bank PACs,” said Kurzon. “We need to embrace change. I am ready to serve and I am confident the good people of NY7 will let me work for them in Washington.”
Kurzon believes that Velázquez has kept her power for so long because her campaigns are financed by banks and corporations. Without campaign contributors, Kurzon says, he can focus of the constituents and not the contributors.
“The incumbent is on the House Financial Services Committee, and her job is to regulate the bank and she takes contributions from the bank,” said Kurzon. “That’s a conflict of interest.”
Kurzon’s primary issues include housing, education, campaign finance, and corporate tax evasion. He believes in universal pre-K, and free public college nationwide. He also believes in a Wall Street speculative tax to discourage risky behavior by Wall Street investors.
The congressional primary is on Tuesday June 28. The general election is on November 8.