Another special election, another (possible) Republican win--but can it last?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 04:16 PM

David Storobin, the next State Sentor from Brooklyn (maybe) (Courtesy of the Storobin Senate campaign)

The later it got on Tuesday night, the more it became apparent that the special election in Brooklyn's Senate District 27 wasn’t going to be decided in one night. In fact, the neck-and-neck race that has Republican David Storobin with a 120 vote over Councilman Lew Fidler, the Democrat, probably won’t be finalized until next week, when the Board of Elections counts the more than 700 absentee and affidavit ballots.

The seat might not yet be won, but the race had a clear winner. David Storobin and his Republican allies will have knocked off—or come very close to knocking off—the Democratic Party pick who was seen as the front runner and likely winner throughout the campaign.

“Tonight, we’ll go to bed as winners when nobody outside believed that we had a shot to even compete, when every story about this campaign began with Lew Fidler, the heavy favorite,” Storobin said after the election.

Republicans in southern Brooklyn are now two for two. Congressman Bob Turner’ upset win over Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin last September happened because southern Brooklyn turned out for the Republican. Now, conservative Orthodox Jews and the immigrant Russian community (itself heavily Jewish) have upset yet another candidate handpicked by the county Democratic organization (i.e. The Machine) in a special election.

What’s happening in Brooklyn in the last two years is as much a story of a few, at-times overlooked, and increasingly assertive communities fighting to be heard, as it is a partisan realignment. The muscle flexing is a story as old as New York City politics. But two special elections don’t mark a permanent political trend, Democrats and observers say. A special election, a divisive social issue like same-sex marriage and a 15 percent turnout may add up to a Republican victory in District 27, but is it the exception or the rule?

The Odd Couple Scores Again

“This is a continuation of Turner versus Weprin and the lack of understanding by Democrats of who the new residents are in New York City, what they really care about, and who's going to turn out in a special election,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “Special elections can no longer be taken for granted by Democratic organizations.”

The “who” in this case appear to be a coalition of communities that aren’t preternaturally predisposed to work together.

“In terms of mutual cultural interests and things that would put them in the same camp, I would not say that those two groups are necessarily bedfellows—Orthodox Jews and Russian Jews,” noted one Democratic observer close to the community. “There’s not a lot in common, frankly, other than ethnic origins way back and that’s not cause to really get together politically.”

“The Russian community aligned themselves—as most groups did—with the Democrats because that’s who was running things,” the observer said, pointing to the election of Russian-born Democratic Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny in southern Brooklyn in 2006. “But there wasn’t an obvious connection to Democratic values, large and small.”

An engrained distrust of liberalism brought over from the Soviet Union and the material striving that many first- and second-generation immigrant groups in the United States develop has led to a more conservative bent in the Russian community, the observer noted.

Havoc, Wrought

That political trajectory happens to coincide with a rising social conservatism in the Orthodox Jewish community that is starting to pay dividends. In particular, the issue of same-sex marriage may have been a galvanizing force in the Orthodox community against Councilman Fidler.

“This is about internal Jewish community politics, and internal shifts within the demographics of the observant Jewish community,” said Michael Tobman, a Democratic political consultant who has worked with Councilman Fidler in the past.

But that doesn’t mean the issue translates from election cycle to election cycle, candidate to candidate, says David Luchins, the chair of Touro College’s political science department.

“With a couple hundred thousand dollars and a hot-button issue, you can turn your base out and you can wreak havoc,” Luchins said. “It sends a message to the machine. It says, We’re important, take one of our guys next time. It’s the same way the Asian groups got to the Queens machine…This is the same way the Irish caught the attention of Tammany Hall a hundred years ago, a hundred and thirty years ago.”

He went on: “The back story here is the growth of a new voting group, the Russians, making an alliance…with an extreme, angry segment of the Orthodox community…the segment that was raving for years now at the fact that the Orthodox community loves the Giulianis and the Kochs and the Bloombergs and the Cuomos and the Patakis—social liberals. The [broader Orthodox] community likes social liberals, and it drives them crazy.

“…But [if] they think these two special elections means they’re beating the machine, I think you’re in for a very rude awakening.”

Has the Sleeper Awakened?

The man currently at the middle of the current maelstrom in southern Brooklyn, David Storobin, says he believes the awakening has already happened.

“We definitely see a change, and we’ve discussed that change for years. We’re several communities—the Catholic community, the Orthodox Jewish community, the Russian community—have been moving steadily towards the Republican Party, which is more in line with their conservative values,” Storobin said in a phone interview. “In recent years the Republican Party has gotten stronger, organizationally, and that’s what’s allowing the fruits to come, all of that to come to fruition. We’re feeling like this is really a sign of things to come.”


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Comments [10]


I do not see anything hateful or contemptuous towards the Russians.

I see a discussion about how the Russians in the community live and survive.

What exactly is socialist about having everyone pay for health
insurance, which everyone will need and use at some point in their

I suppose someone like you should keep off our socialized road, bridge,
trains and plains, stop drinking our socialized water and using our
socialized parks, taking our Social Security checks and using our
socialized medicare and medicaid..

All of which in some shape or form are regulated and supported by our "Socialist" tax paying citizens. But you won't , will you?

How exactly is Obama a Marxist?

And who is it that you are calling an Idiot? I suggest you look in the mirror first.

Your blind support of the Republican party and its idiotolology delived
by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his Russian radio host admirers has
you brain washed.

Go outside your bubble and educate your self. You can use that
retirement fund you now receive, by the way its called Social Security
(a socialist program that the Republican party wants to destroy).

Mar. 26 2012 08:23 PM

Yes. Anybody But Liberals.

Mar. 26 2012 04:47 PM

Lew F has the same experience as Andropov and Zyuganov have in Russia. Democrats, communists, marxists, liberals, and terrorists are the same!

Mar. 26 2012 04:45 PM

The Russian community aligned themselves with the Republicans!

Mar. 26 2012 04:41 PM

RACHEL R.I read some of the comments which are showing hate and contempt towards the
Jewish- Russian community.Yes, we prefer to vote for the Republicans.because we had this socialistic crap in the Soviet Union.We are fed up socialistic healthcare which we had in Russia.where 10-12 patients were in one ward.and there was one nurse for three wards.If you want to have some attention to your problem you had to bribe the doctor and the nurrse under
the table.We came to  this country, we proud to be American citizens, we want that America would be America of Ronald Reagan not of Marxist Obama.I don't anyone to apologize for America and appease our enemies.
As far as someone is  stating that we came to this country only to collect the benefits.This 
person is an idiot.Most of us are working or have worked and retired.
The ones who came to old to work.You know what they fought during the WW11 , risking their lives the ones who were lucky to come back alive from the front, most  of our fathers were
not that lucky,They their lives that such idiots would not have to speak German
Shame on you ,idiot.
These people would like to come to this country and be productive but.But the
 socialist regime did not let them out from under the iron curtain.

Mar. 23 2012 04:12 PM

You must be a Russian Republican politician. they are the only ones that talk in bullet points and believe that BS.

As all people, I have had good and bad experiences with private businesses as well as government businesses.

Any business or government agency, school or student loan office is as good as the "hard working" people that manage and run it. The republican party today is full of lazy politicians who DO NOT want to work, they want to sell American public assets. You sound like a wise man, you must know that when selling the post
office or a huge school system a republican politician like yourself
deserves to get a commission payment.

We vote in politicians to manage our government assets. Someone like you, hates the government, yet you might get elected, then a lazy Republican politician like yourself will need to work hard and manage our government resources. I see, a lazy politician will take the easy way out and will sell of his responsibilities to the private sector.

I wish Republicans were still Conservatives, but they are not they are just LAZY.  they hate working that's why they hate hard working American citizens.

As for the average citizen, they will pay more and get less once a corporation takes over. You know that's a fact, look at Medicare, the public part cost less and gives more to the citizens then the Medicare "Advantage".

Babushka you must want to take that SSI check, food stamps, medicaid and section 8 program and help a corporation turn a profit. Maybe if you are lucky you can move in with your Republican son, he will love that.

thank you for not denying the racist part. I suppose that's not something you disagree with. Plus it's in print and is recorded on radio and tv.

Mar. 22 2012 02:14 PM

LEW Fiddler has experience and that is what we need in Albany. He will prevail in the end.

Mar. 22 2012 07:58 AM

what does this have to do with the article?

Mar. 22 2012 05:21 AM

My hat off to the Republican party as well for recognizing America is headed towards economic disaster, directly to be followed by social upheavel, and for rallying support amongst reasonable, logical, hard working Americans. The dire necessity for change in obama's top down, suffocating policy has never been greater; the proof now exists he has failed. We are now at the crossroads with two available paths: large government, gradual decline of the US, increasing poverty #s, higher taxes, higher unemployment, high inflation, unsustainable federal debt, decline in living standards & ultimately the vanishing precious ability of opportunity to compete & succeed or small government, robust growth in all private sectors, lower unemployment, less reliance & dependence on government entitlement programs, refocus on personal responsibility, and most importantly the opportunity to compete, succeed and prosper (aka The American Dream); your choice. When making your decision, make sure to think of every past direct experience with any federal or state ran agency, ie dmv, post office, etc. Positive or negative? Would you like more of that or less?

To the guy im replying to, jackass43 i believe, you're ignorance is astonishing. Your arguments are factually baseless and instead are based on steryotypes that can be used to attack any group, including russians, americans, whites, blacks, yellows, blues & greens. If you look at data, the two Russian communities are the safest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, greatest in business expansion, and are commonly voted as best Brooklyn areas to live in. Statistics for your democratic areas on the other hand polar opposites. You seem extremely set on your beliefs so I do not see the need to rebute you point by point.

Please remember: Anybody But Obama

Mar. 22 2012 04:55 AM

The russian community is very Republican leaning.

to watch a bunch of old people run to the poles and scream to every one at the polling station, vote down the line Republican, is quite a sight. Especially when you consider the fact that most of them did not earn a days pay here and depend on the social welfare system that keeps them in a home, clothed and fed.

It is my depest hope that they get what they so yern for and loose thier section 8, medicaid and food stamp, they really do deserve it.

As for the 30 to 40 something staunch republicans all of whom came to America and knew where to file for Welfare, food stamps and how to get cash payments for bogus car accident. They have subsequently recieved grants and government loans, college educations and started businesses. They now think they are "self sefficient" and would like to take that letter that they used to get to where they are and burn it so no one can ever use it. who needs competition, not a bunch of racist self centered " white Russian Americans". Even though I suspect that a lot them are scamming medicaid and medicare in one way or another even today.

Oh, and they all hate having a Black man as president, thats spoken about openly in the streets, newspapers, radio and tv shows.

So my hat off to the Republican party for recognizing and encouraging that in the Russian community.

Mar. 22 2012 12:25 AM

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