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Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Jewish Vote 2013 #2 - The Bill's Lead As Equal Favorites In the Orthodox Jewish Community

This year's mayoral race may be a crossroads in terms of how the Jewish community, the orthodox community in particular votes, based on a few dozen interviews of community operatives - from the rank and file to the ordinary voter in the community - who participated in our NYC Elects inquiry.

While we are still awaiting the highly anticipated decision by Anthony Weiner, whether to jump into the mayoral race or indulge in a more boring but winnable race for comptroller against Scott Stringer, a manhattan Jew without the outer borough experience, people are already making up their minds of who to back for mayor. Again, in the event that Weiner doesn't run for mayor since the field of candidates doesn't include a prominent Jewish figure, Orthodox Jewish voters are inclined to look for the guy that they trust would best serve, or preserve, the Jewish community's interests.

First, we asked who is your favorite candidate for mayor in the race and why? And who's your second choice in the primary or in the general?

Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio scored the most points, as either first or second choice, although the reviews were more favorable towards Mr. de Blasio. "Nobody needs to tell Mr. de Blasio who the Jewish community is, and what are the issues of most concern to them," one conservative voters told NYC Elects in our street-shul poll. Others pointed out to the fact that on each and every issue as it pertains to the Jewish community, Mr. de Blasio is always there the first to comment, condemn or express sympathy with the Jewish community. Even in the race of who will be the first to tweet congratulations to Jewish New Yorkers celebrating the holiday of Passover, Mr. de Blasio won that round.

One of the community's effective leaders, who wished to remain anonymous, told NYC Elects that people are literally torn between the two Bill's. While Mr. de Blasio is "very familiar with our community and has always stood up for us, Bill Thompson is a knowledgeable, dedicated and  humble person, who has proven himself very capable in every area,  he has served. He has a very impressive resume and a long track record of even- tempered leadership. When in a position to assist the Jewish community he has done it."

"As City Comptroller he heavily invested in Israel where he could, used his position to put pressure against foreign investments in Iran and was always engaged on every issue. His phone is always on, very reachable and willing to stand up and speak out when others can't or won't. Been there for the long haul and always shows up. That counts," the community leader touted Mr. Thompson's connection to the Jewish community.

"Thompson and de Blasio would both be best for provincial Orthodox concerns, not the city overall. They know where their cholent is cooked and will have administrations open to us," a political insider told us.

A known leading community leader, who has decided to back Mr. de Blasio over Thompson explained his decision by being turned off by Bill Thompson's ties to the unions. "Bill de Blasio is more balanced and has fiscal brains," he said in an off the record conversation.

Colin Campbell, who penned an article last year about the increasing Orthodox population having candidates adjust their outreach message, agrees that the Orthodox/Hasidic community will not sway towards a certain candidate. Even in Satmar, one might see a split in the vote, with the Zalenites probably going with Bill Thompson (or Quinn unofficially, while the Aronim are inclined to support Bill de Blasio. "While I wouldn't bet that one candidate would win the Jewish community's support, Thompson and de Blasio are making the heaviest plays in the Orthodox Jewish community. They both have an equal chance," Campbell said.

With regards to Christine Quinn, Campbell believes that "if there's a feeling that she's going to be mayor, then some institutional leaders might be inclined to back her, and influence the vote in her favor."

Yossi Gestetner, an Orthodox Jewish PR consultant and political commentator, found the non-deciding factor in finding the most favorite Democratic candidate. "De Blasio seems to be the one with his fingers on the Community, releasing responses to stories before the story has landed in my inbox," Mr. Gestetner told NYC Elects. "But when you speak with Thompson he seems to know all the comings and goings of Orthodox Jewry as if he is s practicing Jew himself. On the other hand, Quinn paid a Shivah call to the Glauber's and was on the ground in Williamsburg following the Mezuzah burning." So, go figure.

Another Orthodox conservative-Republican voter, who would never think of voting for a Democrat nationally, was all mixed up and frustrated. "Lhota’s my optimal but he has no chance. He’s a serious man, accomplished, with a record, and a lot of experienced people who will work with him if elected. But Catsimatidis is promising to put up the money to go against the Democrat, he seems to be the most realistic Republican."

However, since Republicans are considered long shots in a city that Democrats outdo Republicans by the 6-1 ratio, his frustration grows even more as he's assessing the 'all-but-perfect' Democratic candidates. "Quinn is obviously best for the economy among the Democrats, but there’s no way I could support her, with her lifestyle and her reputation of yanking funding for Jewish orgs when things don't go her way.," said the influential insider.  "Personally, I like Thompson the best, but he doesn't get the economy thing. de Blasio gets it but is pandering to the far left. Liu is just out of his zone," he added.

Meanwhile, what has propelled many in the Orthodox community to back the Catholic unknown Bob Turner over Jewish David Weprin and the young Russian activist, David Storobin over the well known Councilmember Lew Fidler in last year's special elections, is now non-existent. Very few have gone to ditch political correctness and the electability argument in favor of social issues like gay marriage.

"The Republican party (in New York) failed the Orthodox Jewish community," activist Joseph Hayon, who is now Erick Salgado's Jewish liaison, told a group of rabbis last week. "The Republican majority leader allowed gay marriage to come for a vote. Dean Skelos has openly violated Republican values, which are also the values of the orthodox Jewish community, and that is why I decided to help a democrat run for mayor." in this case - Conservative Democrat, pastor Erick Salgado.

"Erick Salgado is the only candidate to fight for values and freedoms that the Jewish community holds so dear," a Salgado supporter told NYC Elects.

But while Christine Quinn's orientations may be troublesome, the fact that she's the frontrunner for mayor has    constructed some to make the case for Quinn's candidacy. Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, a political consultancy, is one of  very few who are publicly backing Quinn in the race. Some community leaders, especially heads of organizations who are dependent on government assistance, are privately saying that since she might become mayor, one should not rush to attack her. While some have admittedly noted to NYC elected that if elected as mayor, Ms. Quinn would as a matter of fact be a good mayor in preserving the rights of the Jewish community.

Moshe Friedman  a community activist publicly backing Ms. Quinn for mayor, explained his support in term of what's best for the community. "The only person that will understand the Hasidic community is one that is also not of the mainstream. In Brooklyn we are a minority and  in NYC we are a very small minority. The idea that we should view a candidate in the eyes of what they are, is wrong," said Mr. Friedman.

Senator David Storobin, who got the backing of Agudath Israel in his first senate run, and the support of 36% of Borough Park voters in his failed re-election bid, according to the November's election results, told NYC Elects that a couple of candidates  reached out to him for support and that he's open to speaking with all the candidates before making the final decision.

In any case, Storobin vows to back a Republican for mayor. "We need someone who will help small businesses recover in this economy by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, whereas liberals believe in raising taxes just when we can afford it least. Also, only Republicans believe in school vouchers, which was the main issue that propelled me to run and win the Senate seat," he said.

"Conservatives have proven to be better friends of the Jewish community and other religious people as well, than the liberals," Mr. Storobin added.

The one issue, the majority of respondents agreed upon: The backing of Community leaders and their endorsement of a particular candidate won't signify the overall Orthodox Jewish electorate.

"Community 'leaders' do not always have the best interests of the community, as their first priority," said one influential community activist. "I personally urge voters to look, listen and get to know the candidates and make educated decisions, not knee jerk reactions based on someone's ability to attack or intimidate their opponent."

"Trust, credibility and history (track record) are 3 very important components to look for when choosing a candidate. Issues that play no real part in the everyday lives of people should play a less of an important role than the primary issues that everyday people struggle with every day," another official added.

Others pointed to the needs of the community to urge for a bloc vote. "We need a lot of help, assistance and understanding. We need to support people who have demonstrated their willingness and capacity to deliver on their promises."

It lays upon the mayoral candidates, to reach out to the community and voters to engage with them directly, argued Yossi Gestetner. "Community Leaders are diverse in their opinion so there won't be a consensus. As for ""following it," campaigns need to have ongoing outreach, messaging and activities within the community regardless where leaders stand."

One opinion maker plead to follow the lead by "Agudath Israel activists," who know the candidates and the interests of the community.

Oh.. and then you have Weiner...

In our next series of The Jewish Vote 2013, we will speak to our elected officials about their preferred candidate, and the case they will be making in coalescing support for the candidate they will eventually endorse.

1 comment:

  1. John Liu is also very good 4 the orthodox Jews he has a close relationship but when u have bill Thompson & bill de blasio then he probably comes in in the 3rd place