Published in
The Empire

Dispatch: Orthodox 'inevitability' pushback lifted Storobin

Yesterday, in the midst of all the SD-27 election discussion, I emailed the Orthodox Pundit to get his sense of what had happened. The discussion led to a post on his website today that argues Storobin's near-win--a victory in many ways, even if he ends up the loser after paper ballots are counted next week--is the continuation of a voting pattern that's seen the Orthodox Jewish community resist the conventional wisdom of the front-runner.

"[M]ore than anything, the last few elections showed that there is a strong anti-establishment mood in the Orthodox community. There is an insurgent segment that hates the inevitability mantle created by politicians around their candidates," OP writes.

The pattern, according to OP, started back in the 2009 city council contest between Brad Lander and John Heyer:

Dov Hikind – and if I recall correctly Agudah leaders -- supported Lander, but a group of activists, notably Shia Ostereicher from Belz, supported Heyer, pointing to his traditional marriage stances. Lander is today our councilman and Heyer ended third in the district overall. Still in [another] staggering defeat for Hikind and Agudah, Heyer won Borough Park 74-13 against Lander.

Ostereicher and company were seen as the new kingmakers in town, and some started to count Hikind’s days, believing [he was] losing out to the Hasidim who long ago overran the Hikind types in the Borough Park.
Shortly afterwards a special election for Simcha Felder’s seat came up. Hikind decided to align with the new Hasidic powers, and they settled on Joe Lazar as their candidate. Ostereicher worked hard for him, even pushing out others from the race[.] Hikind, Lander and Heyer, Agudah leaders and a ‘who is who’ list of the community also banded together to back Joe Lazar, creating an environment of inevitability. Result: David Greenfield, the insurgent, went on to a landslide in the district, and even the Hasidic BP split their vote almost evenly.
In the current election, Councilman David Greenfield was trying his magic, cloaking Fidler with the inevitability mantle, while Storobin didn’t have too many Orthodox Jewish political leaders publicly supporting him. Fidler also had the support of the highly celebrated [Russian kingmater], Gregory Davidzon, whose star rose dramatically thanks to the Turner upset.
I, for one, sensed an atmosphere a lot like the lead-up to the Greenfield-Lazar race, but thought that Greenfield had the advantage of the Bloomberg machine and that he led a more sophisticated targeted campaign than Storobin’s. For these reasons, I still felt that Fidler will win the seat and the establishment will win for a change.

OP's time line and thesis were mentioned in more than one conversation I had yesterday. If OP and others sense of things is correct, this should be good news for Democrats. At the very least, it will allow voters--not the county organization--to decide on a candidate. OP sketches out what could be the election strategy for both parties heading into this year's elections.

"My sense is that there is an active Orthodox electorate that hates to be told what to do and that the outcome is pre-determined," OP writes. "They rather like beaten down candidates who fight for their votes – it doesn’t matter if it’s with substance or with dirty attacks, as long they don’t come with high-profile names directing to them how to vote. I’d advise the next candidate to take a more humble approach."