In the first of a series of Jewish Press Forum videos, the newspaper recently sat down with Republican State Senator David Storobin in its Brooklyn offices. In the interview, conducted by Jewish Press editorial staffer Eli Chomsky, Storobin spoke about overturning gay marriage, the “Christine Quinn agenda,” and why it might be more difficult to face the little-known Abraham Tischler, 20, than the establishment candidate Simcha Felder (Democratic Party opponents) in this November’s general election for a seat in the State Senate’s new “Super Jewish” district. The interview and video have been picked up by several websites, including City & State and New York Observer’s Politicker blog.
Before jumping into politics, Storobin spoke about several issues that are pressing to many in New York City’s Jewish community. Although courts in New York have ruled that banning gay marriage would be unconstitutional, Storobin expressed confidence that overturning the bill in the state legislature is possible. “Almost every idea, when first presented, is thrown out and seen as impossible,” he said, “including my own candidacy.”
Gay marriage began as civil unions, then became marriage, and now it is being taught to schoolchildren, he said, and he believes it is time to take a stand. “Even if the only thing that we do is stop it at gay marriage, that already is a significant achievement.”
Asked by Chomsky about school vouchers, the state senator responded that he is very hopeful about implementing the school voucher program in New York, and that he wants to be in line with the needs of the people of his district. He said that 70-80 percent of liberals who vote Democrat support school vouchers. “Most politicians are trying to suppress this issue because it would force them to decide whether they stand with their labor union or with their voters.”
Storobin said that he chose to run for the State Senate instead of the Assembly because in the latter, he would be in the minority. “In the Senate it pays to be a Republican and my district leans more towards the Republican Party,” he said, based on the number of votes garnered by GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who won a little over 60 percent of the district in 2008. And, as Storobin pointed out, in the race for New York governor in November 2010, Carl Paladino – whose campaign featured his heavy opposition to gay marriage – lost Brooklyn by a 6-1 margin to Andrew Cuomo, but won handily in the 48th Assembly district, which includes most of Boro Park.
According to Storobin, his opponent in March’s State Senate special election, Councilman Lew Fidler, is a liberal Democrat who supports President Obama and “the Christine Quinn agenda.” Storobin noted that Felder also supports both. “People tend to assume that all frum Jews are conservative,” remarked Storobin, as if political views were all based on religious standing, “but that is not the case.” Through his past voting record, Felder has clearly demonsrated that he is no conservative, Storobin added.
Storobin said that he believes Felder is “too out of touch with the needs of the people in his district….Do the people of this district want to support Democrats so that Nancy Pelosi can become speaker? And are they going to support Barack Obama?” Storobin mentioned that Felder brought New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to a Bais Yaakov girls school and pointed to her as a role model for the students. “I bet none of the parents would agree with him,” Storobin said. “Christine Quinn’s lifestyle is not what they would choose for their girls.”
Many believe that as an Orthodox Jew, Felder may presume that he has the Orthodox vote wrapped up. But Democrat David Weprin’s loss last fall against Bob Turner for an open New York congressional seat may be instructive, political observers warn. Many Orthodox voters turned away from the Orthodox Weprin due to his strong support of gay marriage.
As to whom he’d rather square off against in November, Felder or Tischler, Storobin said, “Tischler has more conservative values, so he might be more difficult to fight with on ideological issues. I don’t disagree with Tischler nearly as much as I disagree with Simcha Felder.”