Brooklyn Dem Chair Seddio Blasts State Senator-Elect
When New York State Senator-Elect Simcha Felder signed on last week to caucus with the Republicans in the State Senate, he angered some of his colleagues in the Democratic Party, although his action was backed by the local community’s public officials and leaders.
Expressing the dismay of many Democrats at Felder’s sudden move, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio called Felder’s decision a ‘betrayal.’
“Senator-Elect Simcha Felder’s announcement that he plans to caucus with Republicans is both a disgrace and a complete betrayal of his constituents,” Seddio told the Daily News. “If voters of Felder wanted someone to pursue Republican interests they would have voted for David Storobin -- which also means Felder’s entire campaign was a lie.”
“Every elected Democrat has a moral obligation to support the leadership of the party in the Legislature,” Seddio continued, “but Felder has elected to betray that trust, not to mention the sacred trust of voters. It’s not too late for Felder to reconsider his options and considerable responsibilities. It is our hope he does. I would welcome Mr. Felder to discuss his thinking with me and the executive committee.”
George Arzt, a spokesman for the Kings County Democratic leader, told Azi Paybarah for Capital New York that Democratic Party officials are looking at “both the Kings County and state Democratic Party rules” to see if Felder could be ousted from the party.”If they do not have provisions, they will propose ways of expelling members for actions of this type,” Arzt said.
“The Democratic Party doesn’t sound very democratic today,” responded Felder to the criticism and threat of expulsion. “I’ve said before, and happy to say again: my first priority is doing what’s best for the 17th district. That means working with a Senate Majority committed to bringing economic and tax relief to the communities I represent, demonstrating compassion for the poor and respect for the middle class, and a commitment to improving public education and easing the burden on tuition-paying parents. I look forward to working with them to accomplish our legislative agenda and making New York a better state.”
In the statement that set off the furor from his fellow Democrats, Felder said, “I have met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. We discussed the issues that concern my constituents. By joining him and the Senate Majority Conference I will be able to serve the people who elected me, and advance a legislative agenda that best meets their needs. Accordingly, when the Senate meets in January 2013, I will caucus with my colleagues in the Republican conference. I have enormous respect for the Senators from both parties, but I must choose to caucus with those Senators who will best serve the communities I represent.”
Republican Majority Leader Skelos welcomed Felder to the GOP. “Senator-elect Felder will be a valuable member of our conference as we work to address the concerns raised by his community and continue to move this state forward,” said Skelos.
Democratic City Councilman Lew Fidler, who lost a special election earlier this year to Republican Senator David Storobin (who went on to eventually lose the seat to the Democratic candidate Simcha Felder), was also not too thrilled at his colleague’s controversial move. Fidler called on Felder to either explain the terms of his “transactional” deal with the Republicans that resulted in his agreement to caucus with them, or admit he has undergone an ideological change and officially switch parties.
“Throughout the campaign, Simcha had assured the voters – and me personally – that he would sit with whichever party delivered the most for his district. Transactional for sure, but apparently honest. I took him at his word as did most voters,” Fidler said.
Fidler recalled the 2006 incident when then Councilman Felder, who supported Christine Quinn for council speaker, vanished conveniently just at the moment when he was called to cast a vote for her – a vote for the city’s first openly gay speaker.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind backed Felder’s decision and praised his integrity in representing his community. “The hypocrisy of this discussion is almost beyond belief,” said the Assemblyman. “Simcha Felder is an honorable man who has not sold out in any way. He made no campaign promises that I am aware of other than to faithfully serve the best interests of his constituents, which is what he is doing by aligning himself with the party that best represents his constituents’ philosophical preferences. While many of his constituents may be Democrats, they also clearly supported Republicans.”
Senator David Storobin (R-Brooklyn) who was defeated by Felder also praised Felder for making the right decision. “I welcome his decision to side with the party whose values align with those of the frum community. I hope he will fight for lower taxes, school vouchers and conservative social values,” he said
Whether the Republicans will retain a majority in the State Senate remains unclear. Thus, if the furious Democrats plan to carry out their threat to expel him from the Democratic party, Senator-Elect Simcha Felder would need a Wilson Pakula – an authorization given by a political party to a candidate for public office in New York State which allows a candidate not registered with that party to run as its candidate in a given election – in order to appear on the Democratic line in 2014. Such a scenario could result in Felder facing a real primary or general election opponent – in his first reelection bid.