Naomi Levin on West End Avenue near her apartment off 85th Street. She is running as a Republican against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Photo courtesy of Naomi Levin for Congress Campaign
An Upper West Side woman who learned about totalitarianism from her Soviet-Jewish refugee parents is trying to topple a powerful Congressional incumbent who could make life hellish for President Donald Trump if Democrats flip the House in the midterm elections.
Naomi Levin identifies herself as a pro-Israel, pro-school choice, 30-something Republican who speaks Russian, Hebrew and French, sees Iran as a global menace — and strongly believes that many of Trump's actions and polices are “very positive and very beneficial” to America.
In chunks of the deep-blue district she hopes to represent, it would be a giant understatement to call her defense of Trumpism unfashionable: On the UWS and in Hell's Kitchen, for instance, Hillary Clinton scored 87 percent of the ballot in 2016, demolishing Trump, who managed a mere 10 percent.
Still, Levin makes no apologies for a conservative outlook as she mounts a long shot bid to oust U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat who has represented the 10th Congressional District for more than a quarter-century — and who is poised to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if his party prevails in the general election on Nov. 6.
“Jerry represents the far-left side of the district,” Levin said. “He votes no on each and every single bill the Republican majority would support. He's against lowering the tax burden, against increasing federal funding for charter school programs, against school choice — and he represents the extreme polarization that has have taken control in Washington.”
In a district where 62 percent of all registered voters are Democratic — and Nadler crushed his most recent GOP opponent, Phil Rosenthal, by a 192,371-to-53,857 vote tally — it is tough to imagine that such views would gain traction.
Levin is undeterred: “What we're seeing right now is large numbers of career politicians getting defeated all over the country by people with a fresh perspective,” she argues. “The majority of voters now are looking for something and someone new. So my candidacy is coming at a good time in a diverse district where the political landscape is changing.”STAY AWAY FROM THE VILLAGE
For more than six years, Levin — a software engineer who graduated from Boston University in 2005 with a degree in biology and computer science — has been living off West End Avenue in the mid-80s.
That's smack dab in the liberal political heart of the 10th CD, which encompasses the Upper West Side, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Soho, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, Wall Street, Battery Park City and parts of Brooklyn.
Isn't West End Avenue unfriendly political territory? “Believe it or not,” she says, the UWS, despite its historical left-leaning reputation, is one of the most hospitable parts of the district for a Republican based on her personal experience. Greenwich Village, she observes, is the least friendly precinct.
“For the most part, I've gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Levin said. “So many Democrats are disappointed in their representatives, upset with them because so many have abandoned their constituents ... And besides, the mission of my campaign isn't partisan politics — it's to focus on the needs of our district.”
Of course, it isn't all sweetness and smiles: “Every once in a while, I'll get people who are pretty rude,” she said. “There are the people who won't talk to me when they find out that I'm a Republican. People who hand me my palm card back.
“But I don't carry a big sign that says, 'I'm a Republican,'” Levin added.
She even demurs when asked if she cast her own vote for Trump: “I don't think that my personal voting record has an impact on what my mission and my role in Congress would be,” she said.
Levin says that she's “wary” of the president's “benevolent approach” to dictators in Russian and North Korea, but adds, “I think that with Trump, we need to look at his actions, and his domestic economic policies and his Iran policy have been very positive and very beneficial to this country.”
The Levin insurgency is coming at a time when Nadler, whose campaign didn't return a call for comment by press time, is poised to become a crucial player in any post-midterm drama involving Trump's survival in office.
If he wins reelection and helms the Judiciary Committee, both of which are expected, Nadler has already pledged to open an investigation into the accusations of sexual misconduct and perjury against newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
And he's repeatedly pushed for a probe into whether Trump's business interests breach Constitutional anti-corruption prohibitions. As for any possible impeachment proceedings, Nadler has signaled a go-slow approach, while also saying, “We have to see more, we need more evidence. We may get there.”
Levin counters that the incumbent's anti-Trumpism is reflexive and comes at the expense of his constituents. “I think Nadler's mission of obstruction is a reflection of the loss of ability to lose with grace,” she said.
Meanwhile, Rosenthal, who was eviscerated by Nadler two years ago, is now out campaigning for Levin:
“Naomi is the voice of the next generation,” he said. “Nadler will undoubtedly run against Trump, but Naomi is her own person, and I don't think anyone who meets her will ever confuse the two of them.
“She's the daughter of Soviet emigres, she's a regular person, not a politician who spent decades in Washington, and she understands the beauty and the importance of our democracy and the freedoms that we cherish here,” Rosenthal added.