The political world has been abuzz this morning with the news that Simcha Felder, a top deputy for City Comptroller John Liu, is thinking of running for the State Senate as a Republican.
If nothing else, the news shows how desperate the Republicans are to retain control of the State Senate. Shut out of all five statewide offices and facing an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Assembly, they are considering nominating someone who ran for the State Senate three years ago proclaiming himself to be “A Malcolm Smith Democrat.”
Mr. Smith, the former leader of the Senate Democrats, is anathema to Republicans, and to many Democrats as well, for that measure. At the time, Mr. Felder was running in a largely black district for a seat held by incumbent Kevin Parker, and was trying to push back on his previous support for Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s re-election.
The prospect of a Senator Felder still faces serious obstacles. For one thing, the creation of the “super-Jewish” district for the purpose of electing a Republican can only happen if no form of nonpartisan redistricting occurs. Although it is possible to carve out of South Brooklyn a district with a 60 percent or so Orthodox population, there is not much room for error. As The Daily News notes, Andrew Cuomo has vowed to veto any nonpartisan redistricting plan, and if there is an impasse the issue will go before the courts. If the lines deviate substantially from what Dean Skelos wants, it will create an opening for City Councilman Lew Fidler, who has been laying the groundwork for his own run.
The other major obstacle is Dov Hikind. The longtime Boro Park Assemblyman has resisted a Jewish district in the -State Senate, and has likewise resisted the rise of Mr. Felder, his one-time aide. If such a seat were created it would mark a clear sign that Mr. Hikind’s influence has begun to wane.
“Dov must be burning mad,” said one local political operative. “The last thing Dov Hikind needs is another Orthodox Jew sitting on his head in Albany.”
All that said, it is clear that the creation of such a seat has become a major priority for the Senate G.O.P, giving them a real foothold in New York City just as the Orthodox Jewish community is becoming more politically active and more Republican. This is a demographic, after all, that not only has a lot of money to give to politicians, but that tends to vote en masse.