Parties Don’t Matter. Issues Matter

I’ve seen a fair amount of coverage about my recent decision this legislative session to caucus with the Republicans. The news reports have been speculative, sometimes confusing, and often inaccurate. So I’m pleased to have an opportunity to explain things directly to you and clear up any questions with regard to why I’ve chosen this path.

Before I go there, I want to thank you for letting me serve you again. Allowing me to run unchallenged on all three party lines — Democrat, Republican and Conservative — was a vote of confidence that I will work hard to be worthy of.

Like many of you, I am a registered Democrat with fairly conservative views. If you want any say in New York City — a place where winning a Democratic primary is equivalent to winning office — you must be a Democrat to have a say in City elections. So why join sides with the Republicans?

There’s a debate that conscientious elected officials have with themselves that goes like this: Do I carefully and precisely represent the views and expectations of my constituents, or should I use my experience to do what I believe is best in office? After all, elected officials are expected to have a wider understanding of the big picture than the public… But if that’s the case, what about the will of the people?

I have never found the answers to these questions to be in contradiction. Having been born and schooled in the same district that I represent — having raised a family here and maintained a passionate involvement with our community — I believe that my thoughts are, for the most part, the same as yours. The decisions that I make politically are what I think are best for us.

Given my position, I believe most of you would make the same decisions. There are exceptions, sure, but caucusing with the Republicans isn’t one of them.

Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for the other ones. Our political arena largely relies on a two-party system where you are either a Democrat or a Republican. But at the same time, political club memberships have been declining for years. It’s a sign that more and more people are recognizing that it’s not about the parties—it’s about the issues.

Which brings me to my decision.

At the end of the day, regardless of which lever people may have pulled for me — Democrat, Republican or Conservative — you don’t want me representing a party. You want me to represent you. And I am in full agreement.

My decision to caucus with the Republicans was based on three things: First, I need to consider what’s best for my constituents. Second, I need to consider what’s best for New Yorkers. I believe that every government needs balance; that having a stacked deck with either party controlling all of the centers of power, either on a Federal or State level, is not in the people’s best interests.

Third, I have to rely on my experience. That experience dictates that I stand with the Republicans again. I’ve been with them for the last two legislative sessions—the last four years—and this has served New Yorkers well.

We’ve done great things together and seen success with many issues including protecting special needs families, free school transportation (a direct help to parents and their families), protecting the bodies of the deceased, and fighting the City’s Bag Tax, to name a few.

The reason behind my decision was no more complicated than that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I stick to the belief that I must represent you as I’d like to be represented.

So once again, thank you for returning me to Albany where I will have only one goal in mind. And that goal is, with Hashem’s help, serving your best interests, regardless of party politics.

Simcha Felder is a New York state senator representing the 17th district.

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