NEW YORK–It was a busy weekend for Richard Brodsky, 64, a N.Y. assemblyman from Westchester and one of 5 Democratic candidates running for state attorney general. He went to Al Vann’s Democratic Club, met with members of the Asian American Democratic Association in Queens, stopped at various Brooklyn churches and went to Co-op City in the Bronx, all in preparation for the upcoming Democratic Primary this Tuesday.
Early Sunday afternoon he also participated in an event at Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, where members of the Russian immigrant community were commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Despite gray skies and passing showers, a few hundred people were gathered at the park.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Brodsky said shortly after arriving at the event.
Brodsky has been courting the Russian-speaking community like no other candidate in the AG race and has visited the so called “Little Odessa” in south Brooklyn many times this year.
“I’ve been campaigning regularly out there,” said Brodsky. He also met with the community of Bukharian Jews in Queens and has been advertising in Russian-language media.
“It’s a way to reconnect with my roots, too,” says Brodsky who keeps reminding potential voters in the south Brooklyn area that his grandparents came from Odessa.
When he stood in front of the microphone on Sunday, many in the crowd already knew very well who he is, and some had already declared their support for him.
“It’s not that we in the community are talking about who we want to choose for attorney general. But we hear his ads on the Russian radio all the time. We don’t hear about any other candidates,” said Alina Vladovskaya, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine around 20 years ago. “I think he is the best candidate. His ancestors came from Odessa, he is Jewish and he is the only candidate who does not support the mosque.”
The issue of the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan overshadowed many of this year’s events commemorating 9/11, including the one at Asser Levy Park. There wasn’t one speaker who didn’t mention it.
“Our hearts are with you, we feel what you feel, and when controversies come up as it’s come up now about the community center and mosque we must allow for your views to be heard and understood across the world,” said Brodsky in his speech.
The majority of the Russian community strongly opposes the so called “Ground Zero mosque.”
“Everybody is talking about it because it has particular implications on the safety and security issue of this country, our kids and grandchildren,” said Alec Brook Krasny, who in 2006 became the first Russian-born Jewish New York assemblyman.
Unlike other candidates running for attorney general, Brodsky has expressed various concerns about the project which has gained him support in the Russian immigrant community.
His speech at the event was only a couple of minutes long, but he hung out in the area for much longer shaking hands with community leaders and Russian-language media representatives.
One of his biggest supporters is Gregory Davidzon, a media mogul and the owner of a Russian-language radio station called Davidzon Radio. Davidzon, who is involved in local politics calls Brodsky “our candidate.”
“For the last few years Russians are getting more and more organized. Last year we supported John Liu for city comptroller, Bill de Blasio for public advocate and Mayor Bloomberg. They were all elected and Russians contributed to their victory,” Davidzon said.
This time he hopes to repeat that success with Brodsky even though he admits that “it’s a tough race.”
“There are five candidates and the turnout will be extremely low. I think statewide we will be able to bring between 15,000 to 20,000 Russian voters during the primary. This can shift the results by 4-5%.”
But Brodsky may need more than that. According to the latest Siena College poll released on Saturday, only 7% of voters support him. The race is led by Eric Schneiderman (25%) and Kathleen Rice (23%). Sean Coffey has 13% and Eric Dinallo 4%. 29% remained undecided.
It’s also not certain what percentage of Russian-speaking New Yorkers will support any of the Democrats.
“It’s hard to put a label on the Russian community. It is quite conservative and some are leaning towards the Republican party,” said John Lisyanskiy, a community activist and a Democrat himself. “So for example when Dan Donovan (a Republican candidate for attorney general) goes into the general election he will be trying to get those Russian-speaking voters.”
Nevertheless, Brodsky said he felt good about Tuesday’s primary. Regardless of the outcome he is leaving his seat in the Assembly where he has represented Westchester County since 1982. Asked what his plans were in case he doesn’t become the Democratic nominee, he simply answered: “I have no idea.”
Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska is a reporter for Nowy Dziennik/Polish Daily News. Feet in Two Worlds coverage of the New York Primary is supported, in part, by the New York Community Trust.