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Akselrod to run as Republican against Cymbrowitz

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The voters of Sheepshead Bay will have to decide whether this candidate’s flip will flop.

Ben Akselrod, president of the Bay Democrats, has told this paper that he is officially accepting the Republican nomination to challenge the Democratic incumbent for the area’s Assembly seat — just a week and a half before Election Day.

The registered Democrat, who lost his party’s primary to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay) on Sept. 9, received the Republican nod through an unofficial write-in campaign, and he said Oct. 24 that he intends to campaign to win on Nov. 4.

“I still hope to win this election — this general election,” Akselrod said.

Akselrod got 46 write-in votes from Republican voters in the primary, nearly double the number received by the runner-up — Cymbrowitz, who got 27.

When his surprising write-in nomination was made public in late September, Akselrod declined to comment on his plans before the end of the Jewish holidays, but a source said he skipped the most recent meeting of the Bay Democrats.

The newly minted Republican candidate said he would wait to resolve his status as president of Sheepshead Bay’s main Democratic group until after voters decide whether he will go to Albany for the opposing party.

“I don’t think there will be another meeting of Bay Democrats until after the election so we’ll take it from there,” he said.

Akselrod said he doesn’t expect his political affiliations will make much of a difference in voters’s minds in an Assembly election.

“If you’re talking about presidential election, then maybe it makes a difference,” he said.

But Akselrod’s party change has cost him at least one endorsement that he had secured in the primaries: his longtime friend Ari Kagan, a Democratic district leader for the Assembly district who works for Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Even though Kagan called Cymbrowitz “lazy” during the primary, he refuses to endorse Akselrod as a Republican.

“He’d love to have my endorsement but he is not even asking at this point,” said Kagan. “I’m a Democrat — I became a citizen and a Democrat at the same time.”

Another reason Kagan won’t endorse Akselrod’s last-minute push is that he doesn’t consider it realistic without enormous campaign spending.

“I don’t want to look, also — look childish,” said Kagan. “It is 12 days left. You need tons of money.”

State campaign finance records show that Akselrod’s warchest is not up to outspending the incumbent in the final days, with only $4,396 remaining, against Cymbrowitz’s $17,131.

But Kagan said the future depends on Southern Brooklyn voters, who can be unpredictable.

“The last few days are always important,” he said. “Anything can happen.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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