Chaim Deutsch’s victory in the race to replace Michael Nelson in the Council made all the controversy last year about the 48th Council District being redrawn into a “Super-Russian District” seems like much ado about nothing. Deutsch — who, unlike his opponents, doesn’t speak Russian — did well even in mostly Russian-speaking precincts, suggesting that ethnic politics mattered less to voters than the constituent services he provided as a long-time aide to Councilman Michael Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay), whom he will be replacing. We sat down with the councilman-elect, who shared his thoughts on the campaign, and how he’ll prepare himself to take office on Jan. 1.
Colin Mixson: Before you announced your candidacy for Council, the lines of the 48th District were redrawn into the so-called “Super-Russian District.” As a result, a lot of people said a non-Russian speaking candidate wouldn’t have a chance. What were your thoughts at the time, and did you ever consider abandoning the campaign?
Chaim Deutsch: There’s been a lot of chat about the district being redrawn to be a Super-Russian District, but I never saw it that way. I saw it as one united district, and we had support in every corner. People forget how diverse southern Brooklyn is. It’s not just the Russian Americans and the Orthodox Jews, there are large Chinese, Pakistani, Irish, and Italian communities — all of which I worked closely with throughout the campaign, and they came out to vote for me on election day.
CM: How would describe your relationship with the Russian community?
CD: Actually, at the Shore Front Y, which is the main Russian-American polling site, I did very well over there. I got almost half the votes. I only speak about five words in Russian, but I’ve made inroads into the Russian community.
CM: You obviously have a good relationship with Councilman Michael Nelson and the rest of his staff. Do you plan on keeping most of his people around once you take over, or do you plan on bringing in new people?
CD: I haven’t focused on that yet. What I’m going to focus on is making sure we have the people who can get the hard jobs done, and that we can represent the entire district, which is very diverse. I want everybody to get the services they deserve, and make sure they can communicate with their elected official in order to accomplish that.
CM: How have you been spending the past few days since your victory?
CD: Between then and now, I’ve gotten over 600 text messages and over 400 phones calls. So, I have the choice either to relax for a couple days, or to get back to the people who supported me. I think it’s more important to get back to everyone.
CM: How do plan on spending your time between now and January 1?
CD: I’m going to get a head start working on the issues I want to focus on in City Council — public safety, strengthening the southern coast, and storm resiliency, and making sure that our seniors are taken care off. So, I’m starting to meet with senior centers and setting up meetings with some of the people I’ll need to work with before January. That way, I can hit the ground running. We have no time to lose.
©2013 Community News Group
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