Former City Councilman Simcha Felder made his intentions to run for the State Senate on the Democratic line clear in today’s edition of Hamodia, but there remains a question as to whether he ultimately caucuses with the Democratic conference. The Democratic primary electorate in district is heavily Orthodox Jewish and may very well be just as conservative as the general election when Republicans can vote as well, so supporting the GOP might not be a mortal sin for aspiring Democratic candidates here.
Further suggesting he might be open to the possibility, when he said he would run as a Democrat in his Hamodia interview, Mr. Felder added the phrase, “[B]ut as always, I will work with anyone and everyone who will work with this community.”
And the Republican leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos, has been expanding his outreach to the Orthodox Jewish community and influential social service organizations like Agudath Israel. Indeed, the Senate Republicans were responsible for creating the new Orthodox State Senate district in the first place.
In an unrelated conversation with The Politicker yesterday, Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind sung Mr. Skelos’ praises.
“Skelos, to be very honest with you, has really been smart about these issues and supporting things that really matter to our community,” he said. “You don’t even have to explain it to him, the guy just gets it.”
On the other hand, although Mr. Felder might not be hurt politically by supporting the Republicans, he does have a record of indicating he’s a reliably Democratic vote.
“I look forward to making sure the Senate Democrats regain control of the Senate,” Mr. Felder said during his 2008 primary campaign against incumbent Senator Kevin Parker in a far more liberal district. And, during a debate that year, he reportedly “strongly implied Bloomberg was the only Republican he ever would support.”
Other options would exist for Mr. Felder as well. One operative knowledgeable about Orthodox Jewish politics in the region mused the recently announced candidate might very well just refuse to indicate who he’ll caucus with until after the election, or announce his support for the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference that has a good relationship with the Senate Republicans.
Some of Mr. Felder’s socially conservative beliefs might be at odds with the rest of the Independent Democrats, but a spokesman for the group, Rich Azzopardi, said that anyone who would like to join them would have the opportunity to at least make their case.
“We’ve always said that if any like-minded individuals would like to join us, the members will sit down and talk,” he told The Politicker.
As is usually the case for open seats, other candidates are likely to emerge. Nachman Caller has already made his intentions clear to run on the Republican side of the race, but complicating the whole matter is the ambiguous outcome of an overlapping State Senate district’s March 20th special election.
The Republican candidate in that race, David Storobin, has vowed to seek reelection in the new Orthodox Jewish seat Mr. Caller and Mr. Felder are also seeking to represent, while the Democratic candidate, Lew Fidler, simply points to the ongoing litigation over the entire state legislative redistricting plan.
“Maybe some of those folks out there announcing for Senate seats ought to wait until the lines are actually drawn!” he wrote on Facebook last night.
Update: Chris Bragg got the answer, and it’s “yes and no.” He’ll support the Democrats but if his vote is crucial, he’ll side with the Republicans.