Democrats were confident enough they would win control of the New York Senate this year, returning to power and dominate the state’s legislative branches, but those plans were scuttled when Jewish politicians Jeffrey Klein and Simcha Felder served as spoilers by striking deals with the Republican Senate leadership.
Klein and Felder each represent districts that are home to influential Jewish communities: ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Jews in Felder’s case and upper-middle-class Jews from Riverdale and Westchester County in Klein’s case.
Despite running on the Democratic line, their move seemed obvious, since the fast growing Orthodox community continues to erode support for Democrats, and their key roles as kingmakers provide them the necessary tools to deliver back to the community from an influential position rather than a backbencher in the minority.
“I don’t think it’s much about policy,” Richard Stein, publisher of the Riverdale Press, a local newspaper in Klein’s district, told Josh Nathan-Kazis for the Forward. “Really it’s about power.”
Klein as co-leader in the Senate majority will now become the fourth man in Albany’s so called “three men in a room” — the governor and the leaders of the state house and state Senate.
Felder will too gain from his apparent pre-election deal with Republican Majority leader, Dean Skelos, and closeness with Jerry Kassar, Brooklyn Conservative party chair and Senator Marty Golden’s (R-Bay Ridge) chief of staff, running on the conservative line in the November elections, allowing him to overcome the Republican wave in the community.
While Simcha Felder promised during the election that he will work with anyone that will offer “a plan to ease the burden of tuition-paying parents across New York,” Klein took a greater risk in alienating the Democrats. “Riverdale has a lot of people who consider themselves Democrats, and who may or may not take kindly, for whatever reason, to a state senator screwing the party out of a chance to take over the upper house,” Stein, the Riverdale Press publisher told the Forward. “You could say that there’s a certain amount of courage in what he’s doing.”
“Felder is doing exactly what Felder should be doing for the constituency he represents, which is Democratic because of where the communities are located, but not Democratic where their hearts and brains are located,” Hank Sheinkopf, a conservative Democratic consultant, told the Forward.