A video released on May 11 by former Democratic State Sen. Anna Kaplan was an official kickoff for her candidacy as a challenger in the 3rd Congressional District primary. The video has already had over a million and a half views.
Kaplan could eventually run against Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos. The primary race, which has become crowded, already includes Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan; law professor Will Murphy; and Zak Malamed, founder of a non-profit, who announced his candidacy on Monday.
It was Santos’ indictment on May 10 for wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making materially false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives that inspired Kaplan to ramp up her campaign, she said.
“It made me understand how important it is to jump in now to do the legwork I need to do for next year,” she said. “This will be a different race. Both sides of the aisle will put a lot of money into it. I want to repeat what I did in 2018 and have a grassroots campaign where I meet people and tell them why I’m running and to listen to everyone.”
Kaplan is unfazed by others who wish to challenge her or anyone who might not lend their support. She had a hard life in Tabriz, Iran before she came to the United States, and it toughened her up. She had her first experience with anti-Semitism in Iran when as a child at a produce store the owner told her and her mother not to touch the vegetables and fruit because they were Jewish. When the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in 1979, she remembers the terror Jews experienced, certain they would be persecuted. Unaccompanied by her parents at 13 years old, Kaplan boarded a plane, joining 39 other Jewish children who fled to New York.
Kaplan first ran for state Senate in 2018 to represent the 7th Senate District. Endorsed by then President Obama, she became the first Iranian-American elected to state Senate. She served two terms, losing her re-election bid in 2022 to Republican Jack Martins. She said that loss was due in part to the shifting of district lines; when finalized, she said, the district did not include 40 percent of her base.
Kaplan said her goal is to deliver the House back to a Democratic majority as she did in 2018 in the state Senate, when she flipped her district from red to blue. She also wants to codify Roe v. Wade on a federal level and pass what she considers common-sense gun laws.
“Forty years ago when I came here, we didn’t have children afraid to go to school because they might not come home, parents afraid to send their children to the movies or malls or people afraid to go to places of worship because they were afraid they’d be gunned down,” Kaplan said. “How good would it be for Americans not to fear for their lives and have hope.”
She was horrified when Santos went onto the House floor wearing an AR-15 pin to show his support for a bill to make the semi-automatic rifle the national gun. “This was hours after a mass shooting,” she said. “He’s a dangerous man and we need to unseat him.”
The public’s reaction since her loss in 2022 has been mixed. When they see Kaplan on the street some thank her for the help she provided during the coronavirus pandemic, she said. People had trouble filing for unemployment during that time, and Kaplan’s office helped between 3,000 and 4,000 people fill out the paperwork. But some people don’t like her, including anti-vaxxers, who have screamed at her that they are glad she is out of office, Kaplan said.
Her issues, whether running for state Senate or Congress, remain the same. Kaplan wants to fight for reproductive rights and voting rights; deliver assistance for schools in Black and brown communities; and advocate for small businesses.
“I will always be the voice for people who don’t have a voice for themselves,” she said firmly. “And I still believe Holocaust studies is important to get into the curriculum.”
Kaplan remains offended by Santos’ insistence that his mother, Fatima Alzira Caruso Devolder, was of Jewish descent. “That is so offensive to me as a Jewish refugee,” Kaplan said. “For someone to come out and lie about being Jewish and then say ‘I’m Jew-ish,’ mocking our religion? It’s just so insulting and offensive. Santos is an embarrassment.”
To view Kaplan’s video, go to youtu.be/PzlxHfLt-VU.