A socialist in GOP clothing?
Brooklyn Republican Assemblyman Michael Novakhov won an upset victory last year over longtime Democratic incumbent Steven Cymbrowit — but voters in the deeply red district may have elected a closet lefty.
Novakhov, a radio entrepreneur who was born under Communist rule in the Soviet Union, spent years as a registered Democrat, only switching parties in August 2020 before his run for office, according to city Board of Elections data.
The district Novakhov represents covers Gravesend with slices of Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach. Many of his constituents also settled there after fleeing Communist oppression.
Over the years Novakhov was a frequent Democratic campaign donor, Federal Election Commission records show. During the 2016 cycle, he gave another $170 to socialist Bernie Sanders. There are no recorded donations to Republicans.
In his race against Cymbrowitz, Novakhov earned big-ticket GOP endorsements, including from gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin, Staten Island Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. He was even backed by the Brooklyn Conservative Party.
His public positions, however, have often been less than conservative. One of the six campaign issues listed on his website is “social equity,” and he has criticized Mayor Adams’ plans to remove violent vagrants from city subways on the grounds that the plan didn’t include “mental health professionals.”
“Michael was born under Communist rule in Soviet Russia and was able to escape to the United States to build a better life. As an immigrant-American he, like many others in his district, registered as a Democrat,” a Novakhov spokeswoman told The Post. “He made a number of small dollar donations to the Bernie Sanders campaign, subscribing, with the intention of seeing if the messaging of the campaign to donors differed from that of someone who solely subscribed to a newsletter.”
“In 2020, after years of frustration with the Democrat party and a continuing decline in representation of his district and the city, Michael proudly re-registered as a Republican.”
After taking office, Novakhov hired Gregory Kirsopp, another Democratic donor, to serve as his chief of staff. Kirsopp previously worked for former Democratic City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine, according to his LinkedIn.
In September 2021, Kirsopp hosted a fundraiser on behalf of Democratic Mayor Adams, who was then locked in a battle with GOP nominee Curtis Sliwa. Minimum donations for the event at the ritzy Salmagundi Club were $1,500. In a smiling photo with Adams posted to his Instagram, Kirsopp said the event was an “incredible honor.”
“The incompetent and disorganized paper organization know as the Brooklyn Republican Party continues to debase itself. They shamefully ran a recent Democrat & Bernie Sanders donor in a Trump district that Lee Zeldin won by almost 20 points,” said Gavin Wax, president of the New York Young Republicans.
While Novakhov’s district went for Zeldin, the assemblyman himself posted exuberantly about the triumph of his opponent, Democratic Gov. Hochul just this week.
“Proud to have witnessed Her-story being made!!!” he said in an Instagram post taken while attending the governor’s inauguration.
On social media, he pals around with prominent city socialists like Council member Chi Ossi and has often liked and retweeted posts from comptroller Brad Lander and Manhattan’s soft-on-crime District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Novakhov’s own personal Instagram page features him prominently wearing a tongue-in-cheek Communist “party” sweater featuring images of Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin holding balloons.
Brooklyn Party grandees said they were aware of Novakhov’s past but stressed that the party had to be a “big tent” to keep winning elections.
“When we interviewed him he was a Republican and he was a Republican for nearly two years at that juncture and he changed … because people are fed up with the state of the city and the state of the state,” said Brooklyn GOP leader Ted Ghorra.