Ex-Brooklyn Councilman Simcha Felder, who has been working as a deputy in Comptroller John Liu’s office, told the prominent Jewish paper Hamodia on Wednesday that he’s definitely running for the new, heavily Orthodox Jewish Senate seat in Brooklyn.
Felder’s announcement comes before vote counting has even been finished in the race for an overlapping, pre-redistricting seat between Democrat Lew Fidler and Republican David Storobin. And the Hamodia article states that Fedler, who has been courted to run for the seat as a Republican, is running on the Democratic line – setting up a possible clash with Storobin in November.
The Senate Democrats, whose prospects for holding the seat had been looking bleak, could possibly be in better shape, assuming that Felder actually caucuses with them. It’s unclear from the article whether that will happen — Felder says simply that ” as always, I will work with anyone and everyone who will work with this community.”
In fact, given how praiseworthy the article rolling out Fidler’s bid is towards Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for his creation of the Super-Jewish seat, it’s certainly possible that Felder would conference with the GOP. Felder could run, conceivably, both in the Democratic primary and with the Republican line. Senate Republicans have been courting the Orthodox Jewish vote in the district — building a close relationship with local social service organizations.
A spokesman for the Senate Republicans did not immediately return requests for comment, while a source close to the Senate Democrats expressed some confidence that Felder would ultimately caucus with the party, noting that Felder is a lifelong Democrat.
Meanwhile, Nachman Caller, a wealthy real estate attorney, has filed paperwork to form a campaign committee and run on the GOP line for the Super-Jewish seat, according to Michael Fragin, an operative advising Caller. That sets up a possible primary with Storobin.
“Nachman Caller will be a candidate for NYS state senate and will run as a republican,” Fragin said in an email. “The community, as evidenced by this past election and the election of Bob Turner, wants a Republican.”
Fragin said he believes Caller, a former Democrat, registered as a Republican in time not to need a Wilson-Pakula endorsement from the GOP to run in the Republican primary.
Felder’s entry into the Democratic primary all but discloses the notion that Lew Fidler will run in the Super-Jewish district, and increases the chances that Fidler will run against incumbent State Sen. Marty Golden this fall. Otherwise, Fidler would have to run against an Orthodox opponent in Felder with high name recognition who is socially conservative. Fidler struggled among Orthodox Jews in his race against Storobin, and Storobin is not even Orthodox Jewish.
Or, if Fidler loses the recount with Storobin, he could simply return to the City Council.
One element that could further throw these scenarios into flux is a redistricting lawsuit that would potentially force a re-drawing of state legislative lines — perhaps the best possible outcome for both Fidler and Storobin. But one headache for both Fidler and Storobin is that the vote tallying in their special election could take another month, potentially delaying any decision or their parts.
Felder’s decision could represent a further exodus of top aides from Liu’s office amid an investigation into the comptroller’s fundraising, but a departure won’t necessarily happen: Felder tells Hamodia he’ll remain on the job while running for the Senate.
Here’s the Hamodia article:
Felder Announces Bid for ‘Super-Jewish’ District at Hamodia HQ
By Yochonon Donn
BROOKLYN – Simcha Felder launched his candidacy this afternoon for the newly-created “Super Jewish” state senate seat during a low-key visit to Hamodia‘s office, potentially returning a longtime community insider to elected office.
“I look forward, G-d willing, to the opportunity once again to serve the community and the people of New York State,” said Mr. Felder, currently a deputy in the New York City Comptroller’s office.
Mr. Felder is the first to announce a bid for the new district, which comprises Boro Park and Flatbush. He told Hamodia’s editorial board that he hoped for a unifying campaign.
A prominent activist within the community, who spoke to Hamodia on condition of anonymity, voiced his strong support for Mr. Felder. He added that other lay leaders were also behind Felder’s candidacy.
Mr. Felder said that he will run in the primary on the Democratic line, “but as always, I will work with anyone and everyone who will work with this community.” The Republicans currently hold a tenuous 32-30 lead over Democrats in the state legislature’s upper chamber.
A former city councilman, Mr. Felder represented much of the new district from 2002 until he was hired in 2010 by Comptroller John Liu as deputy for budget and accounting. Mr. Felder said that he is not planning to leave his job until he assumes his senate seat on Jan. 1, if elected.
“I intend to remain at my job during the campaign,” he said, “and will continue working with the comptroller to ensure that the city’s accounting and budgetary responsibilities function at the highest level.”
Mr. Liu wished Mr. Felder well in his race.
“Deputy Comptroller Simcha Felder is a key member of my senior leadership team,” Mr. Liu said in a statement. “Earlier today, I congratulated Simcha on his decision to once again pursue public office. This is a critical time for New York State, and someone with Simcha’s passion and skills would have a significant impact in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.”
Mr. Felder won four successive races for city council with the slogan, “We all need Simcha.” During his terms in office, Mr. Felder was known for his strategic alliance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, crossing the aisle to endorse him for a controversial third term.
In an interview with Hamodia, Mr. Felder agreed that his sense of humor – he was voted funniest council member while in the city council – would help him in Albany.
“At a minimum, if nothing else,” he said, “I have a new audience in Albany for my material.”
Mr. Felder said he is determined to run “a very successful and a very aggressive campaign.” According to the latest financial disclosures, he has a formidable $318,000 campaign chest.
Asked if he expects others to enter the race, Mr. Felder said, “I would hope that the community would unite and support me in this endeavor.”
Mr. Felder learned in Yeshivah Karlin Stolin, and in Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, where he was a talmid of Harav Avraham Yaakov Pam, zt”l – from whom he related a personal anecdote that taught him how to deal with people. He received brachos this week from two prominent Rebbes in New York for his current bid.
Boro Park and Flatbush, which together comprise one of the densest Orthodox Jewish areas outside of Israel, has long been divvied up among six state senators. Last month, as part of the changes made following the 2010 U.S. Census, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island), acceded to a longstanding dream of community askanim and set up a new district joining the two neighborhoods.
Approximately two-thirds of the new district is Jewish. State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) retained a swath of Flatbush, which is home to a sizeable mostly-Syrian Jewish community.
The Democratic primary is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 11.
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