Six people hope to replace Chaim Deutch on the New York City Council in the November 2021 elections: five Democrats and one Republican. Inna Vernikov is the Republican.
Vernikov, a shomer Shabbos Jew, is a practicing lawyer who came to the U.S. from Ukraine with her family as a 12-year-old girl in 1996. She worked on the 2013 campaign of former New York State Senator David Storobin and served as a special assistant to former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
In November, she will face off against whoever wins the Democratic Party primary for Council District 48 on June 22. The district comprises Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, and parts of Gravesend.
The Jewish Press: Why are you running?
Vernikov: Because I feel like our politicians have completely failed us – starting from this past summer when we saw small businesses looted, properties destroyed, and the beginning of a new movement to defund the police. And then there’s bail reform and all kinds of other laws that are protecting criminals instead of civilians.
I’m an immigrant from the Soviet Union, and this country gave me everything, so I feel like I need to step up to the plate and do something about what’s going on.
Jews in Brooklyn who run for office usually run as Democrats, yet you’re running as a Republican. Why?
Because I am a Republican. I’ve been a Republican ever since I was interested in what’s going on in this country. And my values are a lot more aligned with the Republican Party than they are with the Democratic Party – especially now.
The Democratic Party that we have today is not the Democratic Party we had 20 years ago. The current Democratic Party is moving to the left, and that’s exactly what’s destroying our country and our city.
What do you think your chances are against whoever wins the Democratic Party primary on June 22?
I think my chances are very high. This district is a very conservative district – 65 percent voted for President Trump. I am a Russian speaker, and there’s a very large Russian Jewish demographic in this district.
I’m also observant. I went to Jewish school my entire life. First, I went to a Jewish school in Ukraine, and then when I came to the United States, I went to Nefesh Academy. So I can relate to both [the Orthodox and Russian-speaking] communities, and considering what’s going on right now, people don’t want to vote for Democrats.
What would you be able to accomplish as a Republican in a City Council that’s heavily Democrat?
The City Council has many Democrats who are not progressive and I’m willing to work with them – or anyone who will help me achieve what the people in my district want. It’s not true that Republicans can’t get anything done. We can get a lot done with constituent services and with legislation.
And the most important thing for me aside from providing exceptional constituent services is being a voice for this community, which I believe they don’t have right now.
In a video on your website, you say that you came from the Soviet Union where “‘G-d’ was a dirty word.” Do you fear that “G-d” is starting to become a dirty word here in America too?
I do. In our courts and on our dollar bills, it says “In God we trust.” But I feel like the Democratic Party wants to get rid of that. I want to speak out to protect religious freedom which I think is disrespected right now in this country with the Democratic Party.
Earlier you said: “this country gave me everything.” Many young Americans, today, are being taught to resent and hate America rather than love and appreciate it. What could you do if you were elected to change the educational system?
If I’m elected, I will have a public voice to fight against brainwashing in schools. I’ll give you a great example of what’s happening right now. Many of my friends and teachers in the New York City public school system are telling me that they’re getting letters from principals asking them – and students – to participate in Palestinian activism, and they follow up these letters with hashtags such as #FreePalestine and #FreeGaza.
That’s propaganda they’re shoving down the throats of students and teachers, but the teachers are scared to speak out because they’re afraid of getting fired. And this is part of the problem with the Democratic Party. If you express an opinion that doesn’t match the opinion of the Democrats, you’re automatically canceled, automatically fired, and you lose friends.
And that’s a dangerous [development] for a free country like America. People [like myself] who come from the Soviet Union are very sensitive to that.
Addendum: On Saturday – two days after this interview was conducted – the front cover of The New York Post blared, “Middle School Intifada.” In the accompanying article, the Post published a letter that Amanda Bueno – a Brooklyn middle school principal – sent her teachers calling on them to protest Israel’s “crime against the humanity of the most vulnerable” and suggesting that they lobby the U.S. government “to place sanctions on Israel.”
Vernikov told The Jewish Press on Monday that she fed the Post this story after her friend, a teacher at the school, alerted her to the letter. The chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education subsequently called on Bueno to apologize, and she did so four hours later.