The Orthodox community was a core member of the Democratic constituency until two decades ago, noted two Democratic state senators during a visit to Boro Park. And they want the community to know that they’re wanted back into the fold.
Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat who recently rejoined the mainline party along with the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference, disputed an assertion that Democrats were less favorable to yeshivos than the Republican party.
“When you think traditionally, this community has had representation from the Democratic party in the past,” Savino said. “I don’t agree with that because I’m not sure how you would define ‘favorable to yeshivos.’ If you’re talking about the education tax credit? Yeah, I would agree with you that we haven’t done enough — we have not brought that across the line. But that’s not only because of Democrats, there are also Republicans who don’t support the education tax credit. So we have more work to do.”
Scott Reif, the spokesman for the Senate GOP, noted in an email to Hamodia that it was the Republicans who passed the tax credit in each of the past few years, not the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
In Boro Park to tour Yeshivah Chasan Sofer along with fellow former IDC member Sen. Marisol Alcantara, Savino cited her own support for yeshivos, as well as from Jeff Klein of the Bronx and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader.
“You have the leader of the Senate Democratic conference who is a sponsor of that bill. You have all of the members of the former IDC who are sponsors of that bill,” Savino said. “So our support is there — solid. But we have some work to do on our colleagues in the Assembly.”
A Democratic majority may not be far off. Following last week’s two special elections, both parties have 31 members each in the 63-person Senate. Awarding the majority to the GOP is Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who controls the key 32nd vote. A Democrat, Felder said he would caucus with any party that would be better for his constituents.
Alcantara echoed her colleague’s remarks, noting that while the Assembly had members who may be militantly antagonistic to yeshivos, the Senate Democratic caucus would not be like that if they were to attain majority.
“Both the leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and deputy minority leader Klein have made it very obvious that we want the Democratic party to open up the tent and welcome suburban members,” Alcantara said.
“The Democratic party in the Senate has only been in power twice in the past 40 years,” she added. “We hope that whatever happened in the past will be a learning experience and that we reach out to Democratic members that are coming in from Long Island, that are coming in from upstate — that we can learn to accommodate everybody’s needs, not just the few minorities.”
“So we look forward to working with you, working on issues that are important to your community the same as her community and my community. She’s from Staten Island — they have a lot of homeowners. I’m from Washington Heights — we have a lot of renters. We are a high immigrant population. Even though we don’t have the same needs, in the IDC we found a way to work together.”
“I think that when we get to the majority you are going to see a different Democratic party — that is more tolerant, not just the traditional Manhattan liberal,” Alcantara said. “We want you back.”