If the stars are aligned in his favor, attorney David Storobin will become the first immigrant from the former Soviet Union to serve as a New York state senator. Born in Russia in 1979, Storobin hopes to run for the State Senate seat left vacant when Carl Kruger resigned last month due to federal corruption charges.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has neither announced a date for the special election nor stated whether he even plans on holding one (if not, Kruger’s district will remain unrepresented until January 2013). Nonetheless, most pundits believe Cuomo will declare a special election for some time in March or April. The presumptive candidates are Storobin (Republican) and New York City Councilman Lew Fidler (Democrat).
The Brooklyn district Storobin hopes to serve – the 27th – covers Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush and Midwood, among other neighborhoods.
The Jewish Press: Why are you seeking Kruger’s Senate seat?
Storobin: Because I believe what’s been happening in recent years is shameful – for multiple reasons. One is corruption. We keep on having people in the Democratic Party arrested for bribery, corruption, and other ethical violations.
I also think that pushing through gay marriage was an outrage. People representing very socially conservative areas such as Boro Park, Flatbush, Midwood, Brighton Beach and so on voted completely against the people they’re supposed to represent.
We need somebody who’s going to be [in the State Senate] – not to take bribes or promote some agenda that nobody in this part of Brooklyn wants – but to actually support the people and represent their ideas.
Do you think you can beat Lew Fidler? Some people argue he has done so much for the Orthodox Jewish community that you don’t stand a chance.
The people who say that are affiliated with Fidler. He takes credit for every law he has ever voted for, but the reality is that when he had to take sides, Fidler didn’t side with the observant Jewish community or the Russian Jewish community – which are the two dominant communities in this district.
He’s taken sides with the LGBT community, but that’s not what this district is predominantly about. He’s far to the left of the average person in this district. He’s even far to the left of local Democratic politicians. I’m actually having a hard time thinking of one other person on the City Council who has really taken the charge [on gay marriage] as much as Lew Fidler.
So you believe you can beat him?
Absolutely. This district was the second most Republican district in all of New York State during the 2008 presidential elections. There were only two districts in the whole state where Republicans won by double digits. This was one of them.
If you look at the election for Congress where Bob Turner ran against David Weprin, Turner wound up winning two-thirds of the vote [in this part of Brooklyn]. If you look at the race for mayor, governor, attorney general, comptroller – race after race after race, this district goes Republican.
Some people claim the only thing most New York Orthodox Jews care about in local elections is entitlement programs and government funding. Republicans generally oppose entitlements. How, then, do you expect to garner the Orthodox vote?
There’s certainly a need to protect and support things like Social Security, education, and support for yeshivos and non-profits. All of those things are necessary, and if I am elected I will absolutely fight for all of those. What I’m against is waste, fraud and outright punishment of successful people.
In addition, [I would remind people that] a state senator is more able to help in the majority than in the minority. Republicans, I believe, have controlled the State Senate for 40 of the last 42 years, including right now. [I will be] able to work with the majority, which will be a big, big benefit to the district. Lew Fidler will not be in a position to do that.
Aren’t Republicans supposed to oppose entitlement programs?
It’s wrong to suggest that Republicans just want to cut and don’t want to help. Obviously every Republican is different. I don’t speak for the Republican Party. I speak for myself.
An article on Yeshiva World News claims that Dov Hikind and David Greenfield plan to endorse Fidler. Does that concern you?
I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. I think a lot of the reports may not necessarily be accurate.
But what if you don’t get their endorsements?
I would definitely prefer to have their endorsements, particularly Dov Hikind’s. I met Dov Hikind for the first time when I was a child. I’ve always respected him. I think he’s a great man, so I would definitely want his endorsement.
What would you say to someone who asks himself, “Why should I vote for Storobin? I never heard of him before. Who is this fellow?”
Well, here’s who I am. I was raised by a single mother who worked for $5 or $6 an hour. I went to college and law school and started my own business. When I started my own law firm, I really had nothing. I had to max out my credit card just to start.
In addition, I’ve always been involved in all sorts of organizations. For example, I’m on the New York board of directors of the American Jewish Committee. I participate in the Russian Jewish American Experience, which is a major organization in Brighton Beach. I also started a Jewish club in my law school and built it up to be the biggest club in the school when I was there.
I’ve also written all sorts of articles and have been on TV and radio arguing for Israel and the Jewish community. That’s just a brief list of things.
As someone who came to America from the Soviet Union at age 12, do you believe you have an advantage in this election, considering the large Russian Jewish community in the 27th district?
Yes, there is an advantage, but everyone has to obviously lock up every major community.
The Russian Jewish community, in other words, is tight-knit and will vote for one of its own.
Well, it really depends on the person. Everyone – whether he’s Republican, Democrat, Russian, Italian, etc. – is going to be his own person.
But a lot of people are proud that the community is starting to grow in terms of being able to succeed in the United States. Coming here at the fall of the Soviet Union, everyone was very, very poor because whatever money you even had got wiped out because of inflation and the collapse of the Soviet Union. So everyone started out with zero, or just about zero, and people are very proud of the fact that finally the community can break out and join the middle class. [If I get elected], this would obviously be another step towards joining the middle class and becoming normal Americans.
How many people are there in the 27th district, and what percentage of them are Russian and Orthodox Jews?
There are about 325,000 people in the district. We believe about a quarter of them are Russian Jews and another quarter are observant Jews.
With the federal government involved in more and more aspects of our lives, some people ignore local elections, thinking they don’t matter much. Why should the average person care about this special election?
The federal government has the more glamorous issues that make their way onto CNN and Fox News. But if you look at the issues that play a role in real people’s lives, a lot of them are dealt with on a local level. Albany has a nearly $70 billion budget and passes all sorts of laws related to almost everything that affects your life – education, funding for schools and nonprofits, gay marriage, etc.
You have to have somebody who is fighting for you in Albany because at the end of the day a politician either sides or doesn’t side with you. And that’s what this election will come down to. Lew Fidler does not side with our district. His ideology is not the ideology of the dominant majority of this district.
About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.
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