It may be a crowded race to replace Michael Nelson (D–Midwood) on the City Council, but it’s lonely at the top of the money pile.
Brighton Beach attorney and Trump Village board president Igor Oberman has distinguished himself among the four contenders for the District 48 council seat by amassing a war chest bulging with more than $85,000 — more than double the campaign contributions collected by his nearest rival.
Oberman attributes his fund-raising prowess to his deep roots in Brighton Beach, his tenure working for Borough President Markowitz, and good old fashion clean living.
“It’s all from thirty years of building relationships, and being a part of the Brighton Beach community,” said a jubilant Oberman, who has stopped campaigning for cash and started campaigning for council. “I worked for the Borough President, so people got to know me and my abilities. I’m thrilled to have this overwhelming support.”
Oberman says the generous donations he received are a result of the relationships he’s built within the community, but questions were raised about the candidate’s fund-raising ethics in an inflammatory report posted on TV4news.org, a website operated by a group of Trump Village shareholders, which stated that Oberman received several substantial donations from various company owners who received lucrative contracts for work at Trump Village.
In three thinly veiled allegations of corruption, the site posted filings from Jed Alpert, manager of Green Earth Pest Control; Salvatore Sottile, owner of Sottile Security International; and Anthony Di Russo, a master electrician with T Di Russo Electrical Contracting, all of whom donated $2,500 or more to Oberman’s campaign.
“Green [Earth] Pest Control manager pays back to Igor Oberman for an expensive project,” the website alleged in one instance, before posting Alpert’s contribution.
The candidate denied any allegations of corruption, saying that even as board president he doesn’t have the power to single-handedly select contractors to perform work at Trump Village.
“Every contract that is approved at Trump goes through a rigorous bidding process,” he explained. “I’m only one of the 13 members that votes on every single contract.”
Furthermore, Oberman says that he’s made considerable efforts to repair the damage the Trump cooperative received during Sandy, and that’s why he’s received support from some of the contractors he’s worked with to those ends.
“After Hurricane Sandy, the leadership I’ve shown has definitely made some people who have worked with me see that I have a vision of not only how I want this complex to be built, but how to revive the neighborhood,” he said.
With $85,000 in contributions, Oberman’s campaign is poised to stride over the opposition if they can’t succeed in bridging the gap. His war chest dwarfs the second runner-up, Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo, who has $35,000 left over from her abandoned bid for Nelson’s seat in 2009.
The chairwoman didn’t sound too concerned, however. With a fund-raiser scheduled for next week, she expects her total to grow considerably.
“About money, I’m not worried,” said a confident Scavo. “I know I have the support that I need.”
Next up in the money race is Russian-American attorney Michael Treybich with slightly over $21,000 in contributions.
Democratic district leader Ari Kagan comes in a distant fourth with a mere $104 displayed as his total on the city’s campaign finance website. But Kagan campaign manager Jake Oliver hastened to note that this miniscule figure doesn’t reflect his boss’s fund-raising capabilities, merely that he registered with the city only a few days before the most recent filing date on March 11.
“We just had a big kick off fund-raiser on Thursday with close to 200 people,” said Oliver. “The contributions are coming in and we’re confident that we’re going to show a strong filing in May.”
In other news, Councilman Nelson’s chief of operations, Chaim Deutsch, finally admitted to this paper that he is, in fact, in the running to replace his boss — making it a five-way race. He’s planning an announcement party for later this month.
Deutsch may be late to the fund-raising game, but he’s not shaking in the shadow of Oberman’s war chest.
“I’m not going to comment on Mr. Oberman’s campaign fund-raising,” said a nonchalant Deutsch. “But I can assure that my campaign will be well funded.”Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn