Updated January 22
New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch announced Tuesday that he is running for Congress against an incumbent Democrat.
Deutsch, who represents Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, would be the only Orthodox Jew in Congress if elected. He is facing a primary run against Rep. Yvette Clarke, who has served in Congress since 2007.
“My parents survived the Holocaust and came to America with nothing except hope in their hearts. They taught me to be selfless & help others,” he wrote in a tweet. “I’m running for US Congress to carry on their legacy. I’m proud to live in #NY9, & I hope to earn my neighbors vote.”
The 9th Congressional District includes Deutsch’s City Council district, as well as neighborhoods like Crown Heights, Park Slope and Flatbush. Crown Heights has a large Orthodox Jewish population, and has been the site of historic tensions between the Jewish and black communities.
Deutsch, who is term-limited on the city council, describes himself as a “conservative Democrat,” and has been criticized by fellow Democrats for opposing plans to close the Rikers Island prison and opposing a bill to ban LGBTQ “conversion therapy,” the Brooklyn Paper reported. He also opposes New York state’s new bail reform laws, which were championed by progressives.
Clarke is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. She narrowly won a 2018 primary challenge from progressive activist Adam Bunkeddeko, winning by less than 2,000 votes. Bunkeddeko is also running in the 2020 primary against Clarke.
“As the number of candidates seeking the opportunity to represent NY-9 increases, we must focus on both the work that has been done on behalf of Brooklynites and the work we still have left to do,” Clarke said in a statement on Wednesday. “I welcome the dialogue that will be sparked by all of the candidates on how to best represent NY-9 and look forward to having these conversations in the months to come.”
While Deutsch would not be the first Orthodox Jew elected to Congress, he would be the first person who wears a kippah full-time. The House of Representatives reversed its 183-year-old anti-hat rule last year to allow religious headwear - including kippot and hijabs. The rule change was pushed for by Rep. Ilhan Omar, who wears a hijab. Last year, Deutsch tweeted that Omar and Muslim activist Linda Sarsour were “using their platforms to normalize anti-Semitism,” before later deleting the tweet.