By Sadef Ali Kully
Below a Korean church basement in Bellerose lies the campaign headquarters where Ali Najmi, a Democratic City Council candidate for Mark Weprin’s former seat, is preparing for the crowded upcoming primary election this fall.
Najmi, 31, a criminal lawyer, has short yet extensive experience in local politics. As an activist, Najmi has spent time advocating community issues from police relations to religious public school holidays.
Najmi became what he calls a “super-volunteer” in political campaigns for city, state and federal offices around the 23rd Council District, which stretches from Douglaston down through Oakland Gardens to Fresh Meadows, Queens Village and Hollis.
The district’s seat became vacant after Weprin resigned in June to work as deputy secretary of legislative affairs with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
For Najmi, District 23 is home. Born and raised in Glen Oaks to Pakistani immigrant parents, he attended PS 115 and MS 172. As a young adult, Najmi graduated with a degree in history from Oberlin College in Ohio and received his juris doctorate from CUNY Law School.
Najmi said his political experience comes from serving as a former legislative director for Mark Weprin and working on election campaigns for state Sen. Tony Avella in 2010, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng and John Liu’s mayoral and senatorial election bids, just to name a few.
Last year, Najmi filed with the city Board of Elections, which led to political speculation that he would run against Mark Weprin, but Najmi said he never declared a campaign.
Najmi, who was recently endorsed by 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, said he knows a winning campaign.
“I have been in losing and winning campaigns and I know that this is a winning campaign,” said Najmi, who is facing five opponents in the Democratic primary and one Republican.
Najmi said his platform focuses on repairing and rebuilding Jamaica Avenue.
“You are lucky if you still have a tire,” he said, “It’s a major road in this area and Jamaica Avenue is a tangible symbol of neglect in Queens Village and Hollis.”
He said education, juvenile group homes, jobs and transportation are important issues but the most neglected issue he wants to address are facilities for the elderly.
“Seniors are a huge part of my platform,” he said. “And immigrant seniors are some of the most isolated people in the city. They are the least English proficient. Oftentimes they come later in life, their kids will invite them over to look after the grandkids and those are particular stress factors on somebody, immigrating later in life. Those are pretty unique needs.”
District 23 has one of the fastest growing population of immigrants, according to the U.S. Census.
If Najmi wins the race this fall, he will become the first elected official of South Asian descent in the history of the city.
Despite Najmi’s Pakistani roots, he has shown support for Hindu holidays in city schools to discussing police relations with African- American community leaders.
“It does not matter what ethnic group you are, what your religion is or what your sexual orientation is – my district office will be open to everyone.”
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull