Rep. Steve Israel swears in Town Board member Anna Kaplan...

Rep. Steve Israel swears in Town Board member Anna Kaplan on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Kaplan has announced she is running for Israel's 3rd District seat. Credit: Steven Sunshine

North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan on Monday became the first Democrat to officially announce her candidacy for the Third District seat of Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, who disclosed last week that he will not seek re-election.

Kaplan, 49, of Great Neck filed a campaign fundraising committee with the Federal Elections Commission in Washington, D.C. and indicated she is ready to run a primary for Israel’s seat if she does not get the backing of party leaders.

In a prepared statement, Kaplan called Israel an “extraordinary leader,” and she would be “proud to to follow in his footsteps . . . I’m running for Congress to continue my work as an advocate for our community and to be a strong voice for the middle class and working families in my district.”

Kaplan said she hopes “to run with the full support of my party’s organization. A Democratic primary, however, will be a positive vehicle to select the best candidate to beat the Republicans in November. I am confident I will demonstrate to the voters that I am that candidate.”

Kaplan is one of 11 potential Democratic contenders, which include former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman, Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), National Democratic Committee member Robert Zimmerman, former Suffolk legislator Jon Cooper and Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

Party leaders Jay Jacobs of Nassau, Richard Schaffer of Suffolk and Joe Crowley of Queens met Saturday to set up a process where all contenders will get a fair shot at consideration and determine whether the party should back a single candidate, several contenders or open the primary to all comers. A meeting will be held Jan. 20 for all contenders to get together with party officials. A congressional primary is set for June 28 and the first day to circulate petitions to get on the ballot is March 8.

Kaplan, a town board member since 2011, is in her second term, winning her last election with 66 percent of the vote in a district that includes Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn and North Hills. She came to this country as an Iranian refugee at age 13, is the first Iranian-American town board member in New York State and would be the first Iranian-American in Congress if she were elected.

Michael Watt, Nassau GOP spokesman, said party officials are still reviewing the situation and have taken no formal step to move forward the half dozen potential candidates whose names have surfaced. State Sen. Jack Martins of Mineola and Assemb. Chad Luppinacci of Huntington are the two elected GOP officials who have filed federal campaign committees and say they are seriously considering the race. Another Republican, David Gurfein of Manhasset, has already declared his candidacy.

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