From Convention To Election
In February, the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Working Families parties held their nominating conventions, complete with speeches to signal what the focus of their campaigns will be.
The contested positions are being fought for U.S. Senate, governor/lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. In separate nominating processes, positions for state Supreme Court justices, state Assembly and state Senate races are up for grabs, although some of those legislative races are uncontested and one incumbent state Senator, Borough Park’s Simcha Felder, has managed to receive the nominations from the Republican and Conservative parties while he is an enrolled Democrat. More on that unique circumstance later in this column.
The main candidates running statewide are U.S. Senate candidates incumbent Charles Schumer, the Senate majority leader, and Joe Pinion. The candidates for the governor and lieutenant governor teams are incumbents Kathy Hochul and Antonio Delgado, who are matched up against Lee Zeldin and Alison Esposito. (Delgado replaced Brian Benjamin on the ballot after Benjamin, a former state senator, resigned in disgrace on April 12, 2022, charged with bribery, fraud and falsification of records while a state senator.)
The comptroller candidates are incumbent Thomas DiNapoli and Paul Rodriguez. Running for attorney general are incumbent Letitia James and Michael Henry. The Republican nomination for attorney general was the most contentious. Several candidates wanted to gain ballot access through the convention, including Albanian-born Alex Mici and John Sarcone.
On May 10, ten weeks after conceding the nomination to Henry, Sarcone sought the nomination for state Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties. He secured the Republican nomination at the judicial convention.
Mici and several other Republicans who spoke at the February convention emphasized the need to attract minority groups into the fold, including Albanians and Asians, in order to achieve success in November. That strategy apparently fell by the wayside as campaign season moved into high gear.
The incumbents are all Democrats, so that convention was a snoozer. Democrats puffed out their chests and spoke about reducing crime, abortion, the economy, and bringing women to the forefront of policymaking positions. Democrats also took every opportunity to bash former President Donald Trump. The names of former governors Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, both who resigned in disgrace, were never mentioned. If you didn’t know who they were, you wouldn’t know they had both the state’s chief executive.
During the ensuing eight months since the nominating conventions, the issues have changed, particularly for the governor’s race.
For several months of campaigning, the Hochul-Delgado team played on voters’ fears that Republicans would take away a woman’s right of abortion. The Zeldin-Esposito team focused their campaign on rising crime across the state.
Zeldin, a congressman from eastern Long Island, was attacked by a mentally ill man who was wielding a sharp object and tried to slit the congressman’s throat while he was speaking on stage to a crowd near Rochester, Monroe County. A few months later, a crime landed on Zeldin’s doorstep when a shooting occurred outside Zeldin’s Suffolk County home in the town of Shirley. Also, there was a mass shooting near Hochul’s Buffalo home when a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others on May 14 at a Tops supermarket. The accused gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, near Binghamton, Broome County, was charged with first-degree murder. Other crimes being committed on a regular basis are in the New York City subway, where riders are pushed off platforms and beaten up for no apparent reason. Antisemitic crime has been on the rise in New York City as well.
This changed the trajectory of Hochul’s campaign, which dropped the commercials regarding an abortion ban to fighting the rising crime rate when polling indicated Hochul’s focus during the beginning of the campaign was misdirected. The race is seen as a toss-up as Zeldin has all but closed the gap he was up against earlier in the campaign.
The Republican hopefuls for the three other statewide races are still fighting for name recognition and are a footnote in the race so far.
Simcha Felder – A Man for All Political Parties
When voters go to the polls, Senator Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park/Midwood) can be found on three political party lines – Democratic, Republican and Conservative – the only candidate in the state who has garnered that grouping of political endorsements.
Even though Felder received 60 percent of the vote on the Republican line two years ago, he is still enrolled as a Democrat, with no plans to change that designation, so he can have the staff allocation and office expenses afforded elected officials in the majority party.
“Simcha has traditionally been a conservative Democrat,” Brooklyn GOP Chairman Ted Ghorra told The Jewish Press exclusively. “He’s caucused with the Republican party and the Conservatives for many, many years. He actually votes on a common-sense basis, not on a party-line basis. It’s a rare circumstance but when somebody is in that position where they are actually – we’re going back to the days of the IDC (Independent Democratic Conference) – I’m not upset about it because on rare occasions it makes sense to do that.”
Ghorra also says Felder is simply representing the views of those living in the Senate district.
“He represents his district and he has to represent his constituents,” Ghorra says. “His constituents are by and large conservative or conservative-leaning on a lot of issues, whether it’s fiscal issues or social issues, and he represents them well. He’s fiscally conservative and he speaks out on common-sense issues. He’s been targeted by people on the far left end because he’s too conservative for them. He votes not on a party-line basis.”
Earlier this month, the state Conservative Party released its legislative scorecard detailing how state lawmakers voted on issues important to the Conservative Party. Felder and Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Borough Park, Brooklyn) each received a 48 percent approval score from the Conservative Party, the highest among Democrats.
“I know for a fact, talking to them individually, that there’s a lot of things happening in conference [where the lawmakers from their political party meet prior to the beginning of the daily legislative session] that they’re able to express to the other side of the aisle, so to speak,” Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Fran Vella-Marrone told The Jewish Press. “The conservative voice doesn’t really exist in the Democratic conference any longer. They are there to express that view and hopefully have an impact. We wouldn’t have that if they weren’t there. They’re not spies. They’re there to express the view of the Conservative Party. They don’t tell me what goes on. I just ask them to please express the conservative view when they’re in conference and they tell me they are doing that. Frankly, it’s the view in their community and among their constituency.”
Ghorra said even though Felder is an important voice among Democrats in the Senate, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a switch to the Republican Party.
“Having Senator Felder switch to the Republican line is a conversation I’ll have off-line with him and won’t comment about that publicly,” Ghorra said.
Brooklyn Could Gain Republican Assembly Seat
Also running on the Republican line for state Assembly is Alec Brook-Krasny, a former Democrat. Brook-Krasny told The Jewish Press he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. He is seeking to replace Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island), 46, a Haitian immigrant. She was first elected in 2019 in a special election and reelected in 2020 to her first full term in the lower house.
Brook-Krasny, 64, served in the Assembly from 2006 through July 7, 2015, when he resigned to accept a job in the private sector. Brook-Krasny was born in Moscow, Russia. He came to the United States in 1989. He says he affiliates with Congregation Kneses Israel of Seagate.
The 46th Assembly District encompasses the neighborhoods of Coney Island and Sea Gate, as well as parts of Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Brighton Beach, Dyker Heights and Gravesend.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, with early voting starting on October 29.