Ratcheting up their fight with state Sen. Simcha Felder, the Democratic party placed near the top of their convention agenda a motion to expel the Brooklyn lawmaker from the party and officially support his primary opponent.
“Removal of Senator Simcha Felder from the Democratic Party” is the fourth item on the program for the two-day convention, which kicks off Wednesday at Hofstra University on Long Island. Geoff Berman, the state’s Democratic party executive director, confirmed that the item was on the agenda but couldn’t say how the delegates would vote.
The party’s 400 delegates are likely to pass a resolution in support of Morris Blake, a largely unknown candidate who is challenging Felder in the Orthodox Jewish district in Brooklyn. It comes weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spooked by a primary challenge from his left, threatened Felder politically and said he would be directly involved in trying to knock him off the Democratic party ballot.
The Senate is evenly divided 31-31 among the two parties. Democrats are upset that Felder — the 32nd vote — is caucusing with the Republicans to give them the majority.
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said Tuesday that if the motion came to the floor for a vote, “I would vote for it in a shout.”
Felder remains hugely popular in the district and he is likely to win on the Republican and Conservative party lines that he’s secured in the past. But an official partisan move against him will be seen by Felder’s constituents as seeking to disenfranchise them.
Cuomo is seeking a third term this fall. A read of the political map suggests he will need significant turnout from the Orthodox community to beat back a primary challenge from leftist activist Cynthia Nixon.
Chaskel Bennett, a co-founder of the Flatbush Jewish Community Council and a longtime activist, said that the move would backfire.
“Orthodox voters see voting as a privilege and a democratic right,” Bennett told Hamodia. “Removing their representative from the ballot through backroom political machinations and not the primary will be viewed as a direct assault on their constitutionally protected rights. In my view, any attempt to throw Simcha Felder off the democratic line will rightfully earn the ire and scorn of an energized Orthodox electorate.”