It has been a tough year for New York State Senator David Storobin. After a fierce battle following a two-month recount, the Russian-Jewish political newcomer made history, being declared the victor in a race nobody had given him a chance of winning, by beating his challenger with a mere 13 votes. Ultimately only able to attend sessions in Albany on 11 days, Storobin quickly decided to run for reelection in Brooklyn’s newly drawn ‘Super Jewish’ district.
Last week, Storobin lost his reelection bid to Democrat Simcha Felder. “It’s disappointing, but I’m only 33 years old and nothing is over. I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” David Storobin told me in an exclusive interview for the Jewish Voice. “In March, we were able to win a race where nobody gave us a chance. I introduced legislation to fight for vouchers, against redefinition of marriage, for lower taxes, to improve our schools and much more. We were able to bring back property tax rebates for our seniors, with myself being one of the sponsors of the law.” As Storobin implied, all of these important accomplishments were achieved during his very short time in office.
Will voters regret not granting him another chance? “Whatever I promised to do, I delivered to the degree possible, and nobody can say otherwise,” Storobin said. Modifying his campaign slogan ‘Promised and Delivered,’ the feisty legislator doesn’t feel he overstated the term. “Sometimes you can pass laws, but sometimes you can just introduce them and start to fight for them without being able to pass them yet,” he explained. “But either way, whatever I could do on social issues, fiscal issues, education, and every other promise I made as a candidate, I went out and did everything that was possible for me to do.”
“For such a short tenure, a lot was accomplished,” he summarized.
As control of the State Senate hangs in the balance, Simcha Felder, who was elected last week to represent the conservative Jewish Brooklyn district, has finally committed at press time to caucusing with the Senate Republicans when he arrives in Albany next year, after a lengthy period of waffling on the decision.
“This is why the Orthodox Jewish community should vote for real Republicans, and not for allegedly conservative Democrats, who give us conservative rhetoric, only to support liberals for the leadership of the legislature they are serving in,” Storobin stated, before the news of Felder’s final decision came through. “If you support a liberal as the Speaker or the Majority Leader of your legislature, and support other liberals to be the chairmen of all the committees, you cannot turn around and claim to be a conservative in line with the people of this community.” Thus Storobin dismissed Felder’s original “dilemma” or promise to work with either party.
Storobin’s earlier assessment left no doubt of where Felder’s loyalty to his constituents should start. The defeated government official feels that the choice is very clear from a Republican point of view. “Appointment of the legislature leadership is the single most important thing that elected officials do, and if you support the liberals to head the legislature, then you are responsible for all their liberal programs. It’s that simple,” insisted Storobin, as he reiterated his contrasting argument that apparently fell on deaf ears during the election.
So I asked Storobin, who is to blame for the Republican losses in New York? In suffering severe losses all across the state, from State Senate races to heavily competitive Congressional seats, was it just a bad year for Republicans?
“There’s no question that it was a bad year for Republicans,” he responded. Nevertheless, Storobin left no doubt that Dean Skelos, the Republican majority leader - who refused to back the freshly elected Senator of his caucus - bears a lot of the blame. “We lost three seats, plus we lost a new seat that was created. We went from having 33 Republicans out of 62 Senators to having 30 Republicans out of 63 Senators. The Senate GOP thought they would redistrict in such a way as to increase their majority. Instead, they made severe mistakes and lost badly. About half a year before I got elected, I presented them with maps for winning multiple seats in New York City, but these were rejected, and the result is that we are now down to two Republican Senators in all of New York City, and it is possible that we might lose one of them in two years,” said Storobin, who made history in becoming the fifth Republican elected official in Southern Brooklyn just earlier this year.
Storobin told me that the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy may have contributed to the low turnout in the State Senate race, especially among the predominantly conservative Russian population battered by the hurricane in Brooklyn and the Rockaways. Having said that, Storobin firmly believes that time will tell whether “the Republican leadership could have done a much better job on several fronts, which could’ve led them to keep their majority.”
As I sat with a relaxed David Storobin, he did not seem to be too shocked about his loss; instead, he was focused on what’s next for him. Inspired by the “recycling” return of Israeli politicians to power, Storobin invoked the promising mantra: “We’ll do more once I’m back in office in the near future.”
So what’s next for David Storobin? I was eager to know. “For now, I will go back to practicing law in my law firm,” he said. “But I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone that I intend to remain on the political scene. I was the only Jewish Republican elected in New York City. Now we won’t have any. I think there’s a need for at least one, preferably a few of us.”
Addressing the rumor spreading around town about a possible run for the City Council in 2013, I asked Storobin, if the redistricting lines match up a favorable district for the Russian community in Brooklyn, will you run for City Council next year only if you are assured you can win, or you will keep on trying like Menachem Begin?
“There’s no such thing as a guarantee in politics, certainly not for an upstart, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ kind of candidate like myself,” he responded. “Politicians may clear the way for one of their fellow “blue-blooded insiders,” but never for an immigrant ‘son without a name,’ as I was called by my opponent. The politicians don’t want a regular person to participate in the political process. They will give us nice speeches, but they are absolutely horrified that a regular guy may become an elected official,” Storobin asserted.
In conclusion, while both candidates ran as a “joint ticket” with Mitt Romney - either on the Conservative or the Republican line, Storobin - unlike the elected Senator who expressed hope in President Obama’s given second chance of fixing the economy - is not too hopeful.
“I feel like our country deserves better. A normal economic cycle involves six to eight years of growth, followed by one to two years of recession. But our recession is going into its fifth year now. No matter what Barack Obama says, what is going on today cannot be explained by what happened in 2008. A recession would never last this long without the government actively harming our economy. Barack Obama was not responsible for what happened in 2009, but he’s absolutely responsible for what we are seeing in 2012.”
Storobin continued, “It is also very disappointing that he’s refused to visit Israel, despite visiting its next door Arab neighbors. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling that the relationship between Israel and the United States will suffer tremendously now that Barack Obama doesn’t have to worry about getting re-elected. Most of my family - including my father, my 3 siblings, my uncle, my 2 cousins, among other relatives - live in Israel and have served in the IDF, so the welfare of the Jewish state is a natural concern to me. I hope that our President realizes that Israel is a valuable friend that should be treated with respect,” he concluded.
Time will tell if Senator David Storobin is on course to succeed in politics in the near future, but one thing became very clear and affirmative during the entire interview – this is certainly not the last you have heard of David Storobin.