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Najmi enlists familiar names in challenge to David Weprin

Ali Najmi has enlisted another northeast Queens politico with ties to the Weprins in his bid for the state Legislature.
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Candidates aspiring to get out from under the shadow of the Weprin political family may find it stretches pretty far.

In his bid to challenge state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), eastern Queens activist and attorney Ali Najmi has lined up some early support from a pair of politicos with longstanding ties to the incumbent and his brother, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).

One of the backers to lend his name is former Harlem City Councilman Robert Jackson, but that initial support turned lukewarm following a text message from the councilman.

Jackson, who worked closely with both brothers during his 12 years on the Council, is listed as a member of the host committee for a May 19 fund-raiser in Manhattan for Najmi’s run at the state Legislature.

The first-time candidate has not announced which seat he is running for, but numerous sources have confirmed he has his sights set on David Weprin’s.

Najmi declined to comment.

Jackson said the political upstart asked for his support during an event aimed at getting Muslim candidates involved in their local political clubs, but at the time he was unaware Najmi intended to challenge the elder Weprin.

“I thought he was running against possibly a woman. I know he has a campaign and was considering a run for Assembly. I got a text from Mark Weprin,” he said. “Basically it said, ‘Hey, did you know Ali may be running against David for Assembly?’”

“I didn’t know the particular details,” he added.

Jackson, who is vying for a Harlem state Senate seat, said his position on the committee should not be misconstrued as an endorsement and he was noncommittal when asked if he would be attending the fund-raiser.

“I believe it’s on my schedule,” he said. “I’m busy right now running a Senate race. That’s important for me.”

Jackson is not the only host with ties to the Weprins who was recruited by Najmi in what is shaping up to be a highly personal contest.

Another name to appear on the flier for the event is that of Rob Miraglia, an attorney and political consultant who previously worked as a legislative aide at the Council to David Weprin and then as counsel to Mark Weprin when the two swapped seats in 2010.

Miraglia’s law office declined to comment.

Najmi and Miraglia have connections to the Weprins that go beyond their staff positions.

Najmi is president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Regular Democratic Club, where Mark is the district leader.

Miraglia was formerly a sergeant-at-arms at the Saul Weprin Democratic Club, named for the brothers’ father and late Assembly speaker, where David Weprin is the district leader.

The assemblyman ran unopposed for a second term in Albany in 2012 after the 24th District was redrawn to include the diverse communities in the Richmond Hill area.

The incumbent said his record speaks for itself.

“I’ve done a very good job representing the new Assembly district, particularly the South Asian community, which I guess is the community [Najmi] comes out of,” he said. “I believe in the Democratic process and everybody should have the right to run. I feel pretty confident in my own record. I think we’ll do very well in any Democratic primary.”

With talk of a possible challenge ramping up, Weprin rolled out a handful of endorsements in late March from a quartet of South Asian advocacy groups, and he plans to open a second district office in the heart of Richmond Hill early next month.

Najmi worked with the South Asian/West Indian advocacy group SEVA to advocate for the 2012 redistricting. And while the demographics may make a South Asian candidate more plausible, he is still facing tough odds challenging an incumbent, let alone one with the last name Weprin.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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