BY LYNN EDMONDS
The sole female candidate in the race for the New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Anna Kaplan, began her interview with the Queens Tribune by telling her unique story.
“My story is an interesting one,” she began, “very different than all the other four candidates.”
Kaplan, a Persian Jew, grew up in Iran until the age of 13, when her parents feared for her safety so much that they sent her as an unaccompanied minor to the United States.
“My parents were very traditional, both, and very concerned about where I am. So for them to decide to go ahead and send me out of Iran, to America, must have been something that they took very seriously,” Kaplan said. “I think the Jews felt like if they were not able to leave themselves, they should send their kids.”
Kaplan, along with 40 other children, flew out of Iran, arriving in the United States via Rome. She settled with a foster family in Chicago until her parents were able to join her in the United States eight months later.
They made their home in Queens, Jamaica. Today she lives in Great Neck, Long Island, where she has lived for the past 21 years.
Today, Kaplan is a Town Councilwoman in the Town of North Hempstead, where she has served since 2011.
She began her career in politics after getting involved in Parent Teacher Associations when her children were in school. Her first elected position was as a trustee of the Great Neck Public Library District. She went on to serve as Vice President, before shifting gears when she got appointed to the town’ Board of Zoning and Appeals.
She explained her interest in politics as being, in some ways, an outgrowth of her family’s experience of marginalization in Iran.
“I come from a country where we had no voice, we were not allowed to vote. As Jews we really lived under the radar. We had good lives, but very much under the radar,” Kaplan said. “I really truly believe one of the biggest privileges in this country is that we can register and we can vote, and we can have a voice.”
As such, Kaplan focused a good deal of her time talking about her desire to act as a representative for the constituents that she would serve. While other candidates have made an effort to corner certain policy issues, like aging, or corruption in Albany, Kaplan seemed most intent on making her constituent-focused approach known rather than heavily pushing any one policy agenda.
“It is not about what I want to do. It is about what the residents want me to get accomplished for them, to make their lives a little better,” Kaplan said.
Asked what she would do if her values clashed with the desires of her constituents, she responded, “I’m a good listener, I really truly sit down and I listen to people. And, I’m hoping by the end of the conversation, either they can convince me to see it their way, or I can convince them to see it my way.”
Kaplan did hone in on three issues: improving public transportation, and making housing and education more affordable.
“I believe if we invest in our public transportation, it [will] give back in so many different ways,” Kaplan said.
Education-wise, Kaplan said she wanted to see lower interest rates on student loans.
The Councilwoman also committed to continuing U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s fight on airplane noise and specifically said she would press for the airplane noise level threshold to be reduced from 65 Day/Night Level to 55 DNL. She said she was also interested in continuing Israel’s legacy by serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kaplan has received an endorsement from Emily’s List, a Political Action Committee that supports pro-choice, female candidates.
The Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, June 28. Kaplan is running against former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Attorney Jonathan Clark.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana