While the battle lines for City Council have not yet been finalized, many candidates are already gearing up for will surely be an uncertain and competitive primary season. With the term limiting of Councilman James Gennaro, so far only two candidates have officially expressed interest including Assemblyman Rory Lancman and District Leader Martha Taylor, however the political world will be surprised to hear another familiar candidate is ready and willing for another shot at political office. That candidate is Isaac Sasson, a retired cancer researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Sasson has been eyeing elected office for several years earning him the reputation as an independent and insurgent candidate. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2003 against then City Councilman John Lui, and again for Council in 2009 and most recently for Senate in 2010 where he came close to victory each time. Having forgone the chance to rematch Senator Stavisky in 2012, Sassoon endorsed independent Democrat John Messer. But this time in 2013 it could be his year.
Since his last run, Sasson, a Sephardic Orthodox rabbi, has grown his base to absorb some moderate and conservative Dems while cornering the Jewish vote. He is often mentioned as one of the most prominent leaders in the Jewish Community – and it just so happens that the neighborhoods of District 24: Kew Garden Hills, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica, Utopia, and Jamaica Estates has a large Jewish population. But Lancman and Taylor are Jewish too, so how will this play out and will it split the vote? Many conservative leaning Jews have been outraged by Lanceman’s liberal positions particularly on marriage rights – and thus feeling alienated – they’ve looked for leadership in Isaac Sasson to uphold their values. He’s also scored major points advocating for tenant’s rights plus his activism on Communty Board 7, which includes sections of District 24, has him firmly planted in the mind’s of voters outside of Flushing where he resides. His appeal also comes from his education, as those pleased with Councilman Gennaro’s scholarly approach to legislation (Gennaro is also a scientist) will appreciate the same characteristic in Sasson as he graduated from the City College of New York with a Bachelor of Science degree and earned his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut.
Even when the lines shift, the Jewish vote is historically consistent and historically Democrat with a high probability of voting in primary elections, so it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Meanwhile, many have come to know Sasson as a scholar, a volunteer, and an independent voice in the community. His position on hyper local issues is always backed up by facts and figures – a very rare quality in the political world especially in comparison to the long history of servitude Taylor and Lanceman have to the Democratic Party. Given that, it’s not likely he’ll get the coveted endorsement, but the demographics in this race suggest Sasson will have a large enough base (and the name recognition) to potentially pull off a win in a three-way primary. His campaign war chest will surely help. But we don’t know anything for sure as both Taylor and Lancman have the experience, name recognition, and extensive resumes of service which are not to be underestimated. In the end Sassoon will likely run, but not for personal gain or prestige, he’ll run to serve the community.