Iranian-Jewish former state senator files to run against George Santos


(New York Jewish Week) – George Santos, the self-proclaimed “Jew-ish” Republican congressman who has spread a series of falsehoods about his background, now has at least one actual Jewish challenger: Anna Kaplan, an Iranian-American former Democratic state senator from Santos’ New York district. 

Kaplan filed paperwork yesterday to run for Congress against Santos, who was elected last year and whose district covers parts of Queens and Long Island. 

Kaplan, 57, was the first Iranian-American elected to New York’s state senate, and served from 2019-2022, representing the seventh district, which covers part of Long Island’s north shore. She lost her reelection campaign last fall to Republican Jack Martins, in what became a GOP sweep of Long Island. 

During her tenure, she championed issues of concern to Jewish voters, including in her efforts to pass a long-stalled bill that authorizes the state to survey whether and how school districts are teaching about the Holocaust. Kaplan was a 2022 honoree of the New York Jewish Week’s “36 to Watch.”

“As a Jewish political refugee who has fought tirelessly for the memory of the Holocaust to be preserved and honored, I’ve been outraged and disgusted by the insane lies that George Santos has told to our community,” she said in a statement in January to Jewish Insider. “I’m heartbroken that our community won’t have true representation as long as he’s occupying our seat in Washington.” 

Born in Tabriz, Iran in 1965, Kaplan came to the United States alone at age 13, fleeing Iran’s Islamic Revolution. She lived briefly in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and then Chicago, Illinois with a foster family, before reuniting with her family in Queens. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree from Yeshiva University’s Stern College and to graduate from the university’s Cardozo School of Law. 

If she secures the nomination, she may face Santos, a freshman Republican congressman who has drawn national attention for allegedly embellishing and falsifying large parts of his biography, including that he has Jewish heritage and family members who survived the Holocaust.

Despite Santos’ claims, a number of media outlets, including JTA, have uncovered evidence that he has no Jewish ancestry. More recently, Santos has said that his repeated claims of being Jewish were a “party favor joke.”

In January, the Nassau County Republican Committee called on Santos to resign. He has refused, and filed to run for reelection in April. The committee has reportedly considered replacements for Santos, including Martins and Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian Jew of color who currently serves in the Nassau County legislature

Gothamist reported that three other candidates have also filed to run against Santos in next year’s elections, though so far, Kaplan is the only one with prior experience as an elected official.