By Larry Gordon
He is young and personable, and he has his eye on the prize. His name is Todd Kaminsky and we have written about him in this space previously. Todd is running for the New York State Assembly seat (that’s the prize) that is opening as a result of the retirement of veteran Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg.
At this early stage of the race, Kaminsky might be considered the front-runner as, to date, he is being supported both by Mr. Weisenberg and by the powerful Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver.
The primary that features Kaminsky as the front-runner is scheduled for September, and over this past weekend things became a little less intense in this Assembly race. As expected, Lawrence School District board member Asher Mansdorf, a man well known here in the Five Towns community, has decided not to run, just a few days after filing paperwork indicating that he was planning to challenge Kaminsky. Another Democratic candidate, Robert Solomon, also withdrew his candidacy—making the primary a two-way race between Todd Kaminsky and Tony Eramo, also of Long Beach.
It seems that if anything was accomplished in the short-lived Mansdorf candidacy, it is that he grabbed the attention of the powers-that-be in Albany as well as here on this sliver of Long Island. Todd Kaminsky, in our recent meeting, acknowledged that perhaps in the past the focus of attention for that seat was directed at Long Beach. But he has committed himself to spending time and advocating for much-needed resources here in the Five Towns.
According to a Newsday report a few days ago, Dr. Mansdorf has indicated that he will be supporting Kaminsky in the upcoming primary election and presumably in the November election as well, where Kaminsky will face off against Republican challenger Avi Fertig, who was featured in these pages last week.
Kaminsky is favored at this point—even though indications are that on a national level the Republicans will experience a resurgence. Here in New York, Todd points out, there will be two strong Democrats at the top of the ticket in Governor Andrew Cuomo and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is seeking the Democratic nod in a primary next week against Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams for a seat in Congress.
It looks like Cuomo will be an easy winner at this point, and the polls show a Rice victory in the primary as well as in the November election against Republican Bruce Blakeman—though, as usual, anything can happen.
Kaminsky, 36, is a former U.S. Attorney who worked primarily on political corruption cases. Most recently and just prior to his departure to run for office, he was the lead prosecutor in the case against Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm, who was charged with tax evasion in running a business he was involved in prior to his election to office.
“As a prosecutor, you learn to fight for justice and that sense can be transferred over to the political arena when I look forward to fighting for people in Albany,” Kaminsky says.
When we met, Kaminsky expressed surprise at the then-Mansdorf candidacy, explaining that it was he—Kaminsky—who had the best chance of winning and ushering in a new era in the district. And he added that he was confident that there was so much more that could be accomplished if Mansdorf would work with him instead of competing against him. It looks like the expression of that wish could now become a reality.
In our talk, Kaminsky spoke about his awareness concerning the great expense the Orthodox Jewish community goes to in order to educate our children. He said he is sensitive to the situation and would like to be able to work with his future colleagues in Albany to craft legislation that can alleviate that great financial burden.
He added that there is probably no greater or more knowledgeable expert on these matters than Dr. Mansdorf. Upon hearing about Mansdorf’s decision not to run, Kaminsky sent us the following comment by e‑mail: “I’m running for the future of the South Shore—regardless of the field. I’m grateful for the incredible support we’ve earned so far, and looking forward to a summer of sharing ideas with neighbors from all corners of the district.”
It’s a vague but interesting statement that also sounds in part like Todd is somewhat relieved that he will not have to expend time and resources battling Dr. Mansdorf for votes. Kaminsky has already been campaigning hard and says that he is encouraged by broad support, particularly within the local Orthodox Jewish community.
Upon hearing that Mansdorf is pledging his support for Kaminsky, Republican Avi Fertig told the 5TJT on Monday that he is quite surprised at whatever deal was brokered, because to this point, Fertig said, over the last few years, whenever Mansdorf needed a community matter dealt with, he called on Fertig to use his excellent local government contacts to get things done.
With the summer here, the soft-spoken but still assertive Mr. Kaminsky is building a campaign from the ground up. You cannot be a successful U.S. Attorney if you are too soft-spoken, so it appears that Todd Kaminsky knows how to accomplish whatever it is that needs to be done.
About the way insurance companies and banks conducted themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Todd says that treating people like that is unconscionable and he plans to make them an item high on his agenda if he manages to win and take an Assembly seat.
Then, for our community, there is always the matter of whether there will be an extraordinary allegiance to a candidate who is a product of our community as opposed to someone who is an outsider—in this case not that far outside, just from Long Beach. And for some there is also the issue about the seat being focused on Long Beach for over 50 years, first with Mr. Weisenberg and then prior to that with Jerry Kremer. The sense is that after all this time and with the astute political maturation of the Five Towns, it might be time for the seat to be focused on the Five Towns.
Whether or not that will be the ultimate result remains to be seen. Regardless of that matter, we can rest assured that Todd Kaminsky is quite aware of the influence and potential political power that is present in the Five Towns. His plan, he says, is to be extremely inclusive and very much in touch with the needs of members throughout this community. The primary takes place on September 9.
A Talk With Kathleen Rice
Kathleen Rice has been the Nassau County District Attorney for the last nine years. Over that period, she has carved out a name for herself as a serious crime fighter, well-spoken, and level-headed, with an excellent sense of priority. She decided a while ago to take her political career to the next level with a run for the 4th District congressional seat being vacated by retiring veteran Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy.
Rice is facing a Democratic Party challenge from Kevan Abrahams, the minority leader of the Nassau County Legislature, but Rice is considered the heavy favorite to win next week’s race.
This is a vitally important seat—as all seats are in Congress—particularly during these volatile times. For our community, having a member of Congress that shares our interests is extremely important and that’s why a great deal of my conversation with Ms. Rice focused on support for Israel.
Ms. Rice made it abundantly clear where she stands on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. She said she supports a strong Israel and believes that doing so is in America’s national-security interest. Once she gets past next week’s primary, one in which she hopes she will be the victor, Ms. Rice hopes to travel to Israel in July to meet with leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kathleen Rice is bright and talented and, if victorious next week and then again in November in the general election, will be a dependable friend in Congress of the Jewish community.
Speaking to Bruce Blakeman, the businessman, attorney, and former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature and now a Republican candidate for Congress, there is a feeling of both importance and confidence that is exuded. As we look around and peruse the news on a daily basis, we cannot help but feel that we need people like Mr. Blakeman to help right so much that has gone wrong in Washington, DC.
The candidate was in the offices of the 5TJT the other day for an extensive discussion of the issues facing this country and how important his race for office will be. Next week, on Tuesday, June 24, Blakeman faces a primary against Frank Scaturro, who is once again making a run to be the Republican candidate for Congress from this 4th District on Long Island. [See Rochelle Miller’s interview with Frank Scaturro in this week’s issue.]
If he is victorious next week, Blakeman will be facing either Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice or Legislator Kevan Abrahams in November.
For now, there are a lot of things on Blakeman’s mind. In the half-hour that we spent discussing the issues, we talked about the economy, healthcare in this country, foreign policy, and whom he favors for president of the United States in 2016.
Bruce Blakeman is affable and easy to discuss the issues with. He’s blunt and right up-front about the issues he feels passionate about. On the matter of the day, the terrorist kidnapping of three teenagers in Israel, the candidate said, “I am very concerned about the fate of these teenagers, one who holds United States citizenship. We should work to ensure these three boys’ immediate, unconditional release.” It is outrageous that the president has spoken out on this, he added.
Blakeman tells it like it is, and unfortunately there are no good answers, especially as to the mysterious and deafening silence of President Obama on the matter.
Blakeman continues by asserting that he can draw a straight line from the release of the five Taliban terrorists from the Guantánamo Bay holding facility to the kidnappings. “Foolish moves like that encourage terrorism,” he said. “It is incomprehensible that we would trade five terrorists for a soldier who at best was a deserter and at worst a traitor.”
On Israel, he says that he is a very strong supporter, has visited several times, and hopes to be back this summer. He is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself and is an advocate for the continued status of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. On Iran, Blakeman says that Obama has just been too soft and that he is a supporter of increasing sanctions on the regime until they come around and give up on nuclear arms designs.
On some other matters and issues in no particular order, Bruce Blakeman said that early on he called for the resignation of Secretary of State John Kerry after his remark about Israel possibly becoming an apartheid state. On the matter of the BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel—movement, Blakeman says in simple terms that it is just plain anti-Semitic.
Blakeman says that the country is headed in the wrong direction and that the average U.S. citizen sees only bleak years ahead. He is in favor of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a healthcare system that works instead of camouflaging taxes by calling them fees or premiums. The candidate says that early polling indicates that there is a positive Republican trend and that he is very encouraged about the possibilities going forward. He adds that Republicans continue to do well in the district, pointing out that last year Republican County Executive Ed Mangano won by 15% over his opponent and Supervisor Kate Murray won by a 22% margin.
Bruce Blakeman says that the antidote to the consistent failure of Obama policies is an overwhelming Republican majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate, with both prospects looking good at this juncture.
And finally our discussion turns to the next president of the U.S. in 2016. We discuss a few possibilities, but then Blakeman says he is supporting Congressman Peter King for president. Asked why, he says that King will make a great president, that they are good friends, and that he will bring common sense back to Washington.
On his opponent in next week’s primary, Mr. Scaturro, Blakeman says, “He has a very narrow view of the world,” and adds that the things that Mr. Scaturro is talking about doing “I’ve already done.”
It is important to note that besides his congeniality and straightforwardness, Bruce Blakeman is supported in his upcoming primary election on June 24 by Senator Dean Skelos, Ed Mangano, Kate Murray, Larry Kudlow, and Steve Forbes, amongst others.
Bruce Blakeman is a natural; he would make a great representative of this community in DC, and we wish him the very best. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.