BY LYNN EDMONDS
John Kaiman, former North Hempstead town supervisor, understands crisis.
That is what he told the Queens Tribune in an office visit on Friday when he came to discuss his campaign for New York’s 3rd Congressional District.
When Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed him as the storm recovery “czar” to coordinate all the storm relief efforts on Long Island.
Kaiman said that even now, though we’re not reeling from a hurricane or a terrible terrorist attack, many Americans are dealing with a lingering sense of crisis – especially financially. These feelings that are pushing them toward critical, outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Kaiman said.
Unlike other middle-of-the-road candidates, Kaiman is not afraid to embrace the word “crisis.” But he differs from a socialist candidate like Sanders or a whirlwind like Trump in that while he understands people’s feelings of crisis, he isn’t trying to overthrow or substantially change the American system of government. He is, of course, looking to make an impact, with campaign issues like supporting Planned Parenthood and the DREAM Act and raising the minimum wage, but he didn’t have an issue with government’s form in and of itself.
Rather, he frames the ‘crisis’ as a matter of perception.
“The crisis is that everyone has lost confidence in their government. They’re eager to believe all people are corrupt because they’re not feeling confident in themselves. There’s a stagnation of wages, for a period of time people were out of work. There’s a sense of fear because of ISIS and other things going on around the world. We’re losing control of our own ability to sustain our families, to sustain our community, and possibly to sustain our country,” he said. “And with that fear comes a willingness to listen to anybody else who is willing to call other people names.”
Kaiman expressed confidence that he could draw voters back to the mainstream Democratic fold.
“First of all, I think we need to appreciate that just because somebody is identifying with Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, it doesn’t mean we should give up on them. It means we should listen to them,” he said.
His solution is to focus on a local level, getting down and dirty with the nitty gritty of issues like roads and sanitation.
“I believe that the way we start growing confidence is by understanding what people are thinking, doing and feeling locally,” he said. As a former town supervisor of the fifth largest town in the United States, he said coordinating these services and making them cost effective is a specialty of his.
But Kaiman had aspirations in terms of national legislation as well. The candidate said he wanted to modify and improve Obamacare, even if it meant Republicans were going to try to shut it down during the reform process.
“There has to be a level of creativity where we can get to that point to make amendments to that program,” he said. “Otherwise it will die another way.”
The Democratic primary is on Tuesday June. 28.
Kaiman is on the ballot with Anna Kaplan, Tom Suozzi and Steve Stern.
The winner will take on either Republican state Sen. Jack Martins or Philip Pidot.
National pundits consider the race to be a toss up. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Queens/Long Island).
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, email@example.com or @Ellinoamerikana