Councilman Lew Fidler, the Democratic candidate in the special election for former State Senator Carl Kruger’s seat, put out a long list of 266 endorsements when his campaign began. Now, it seems at least a handful of these backers, mostly rabbis, are no longer on board with Mr. Fidler as he campaigns in the heavily Jewish, southern Brooklyn district.
One of these original endorsers, Rabbi Chaim Benoliel, even signed a letter saying a vote for Mr. Fidler is contrary to Torah law due to his socially liberal positions. “It is therefore considered to be a great Chilul Hashem and Assur [forbidden according to Torah law] to vote for or to provide funding, campaign assistance, public recognition or any type of support to Councilman Lewis Fidler,” the letter reads. “To do so would amount to being mesiy’ayah ovrei aveirah (abetting transgression of the Torah’s commandments).”
Rabbi Shlomo Churba Cohen, listed on Mr. Fidler’s announcement as “Shurba Cohen,” is another backer that has withdrawn his support. Earlier this afternoon, Rabbi Cohen’s son Dovid confirmed his father wanted his name taken off Mr. Fidler’s endorsement list.
Although the son declined to state the reason for his father’s shift, Joseph Hayon, a political liaison for Jews for Morality, said he talked to Rabbi Cohen and the decision was due to Mr. Fidler’s stance on gay marriage. Mr. Hayon said the various rabbis wanted to “send a message to Albany and Washington that we will not vote for any candidate that pledges to vote for gay marriage … even if they give us $15,000,000 or supply us with $5,000 education tax credits.”
“I am still receiving requests from leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community asking me how to get their name removed from Fidler’s list,” he added.
Another one of Mr. Fidler’s endorsers, Jack Benton, a former Republican District Leader, told The Politicker he had initially offered his endorsement to Mr. Fidler, but he had done it in an offhand way and was now firmly behind the Republican candidate in the race, attorney David Storobin.
It appears that some of Mr. Fidler’s former backers have already successfully registered their complaints. The Fidler campaign’s Scribd account shows multiple revisions to the list. While Rabbi Aryeh Katzin initially appeared among Mr. Fidler’s 266 supporters, an updated list does not cite him. A source told The Politicker Rabbi Katzin never personally authorized his name to be used and has a policy of not endorsing candidates. Mr. Storobin recently spoke at Rabbi Katzin’s school, Sinai Academy, additionally suggesting at least some level of bipartisanship on the rabbi’s part. Another individual, Rabbi Shlomo Wadiche, was also on the original list but not the updated file.
What kind of impact these endorsement drops will have is unclear as recent signs suggest relative strength on Mr. Fidler’s part. Mr. Storobin just switched campaign managers and Democrats are privately feeling increasingly confident about the race.
The special election opened up when Mr. Kruger pleaded guilty to corruption and resigned. Voters head to the polls on March 20th.
A request for comment to the Fidler campaign was not immediately returned.