On paper, Simcha Felder appears to be the worthiest candidate a party could want to support. The state senator is a Democrat who represents a district with a Democratic majority. He leans conservative in a district that is right-of-center. And he has pushed through several bills that were made into law that directly impacted his constituents.
As such, he is so popular that few candidates are challenging his reelection this year.
In the name of leftist purity, however, the state party apparatus has inexplicably taken on Felder and is trying to evict him from the party. The Democratic party’s executive committee recommended in July that the Midwood lawmaker be removed from the party for his caucusing with Republicans. And at a meeting in two weeks, they are scheduled to urge Frank Seddio, Brooklyn’s Democratic party chief, to expel Felder.
Because Felder is a maverick, a lawmaker who works to combat injustice and discrimination that confront his constituents.
For example, Felder saw that parents who send their children to yeshivah must pay for transportation because regular yellow buses don’t drive home students who end school after 4:00 p.m. This was not a city or state rule, merely a union one. So he got a law enacted requiring the same free busing afforded to public school students to their private, late-homecoming counterparts.
Felder saw that Orthodox parents of special-needs children struggled to place their children in schools that were culturally appropriate. So he pushed for a law mandating an easing of bureaucracy for those parents. (The law was hours away from a vote when Mayor Bill de Blasio acquiesced to a settlement that accomplished the same goal.)
Perhaps most importantly, Felder saw that yeshivos were becoming an easy target for a group of disgruntled individuals to claim that they don’t provide a sufficient secular education. So he held up the entire budget this past April, using his leverage as the deciding majority vote for the Republicans, to force the state Education Department to take the entirety of a yeshivah education into account when reviewing a yeshivah’s standards.
The Republican majority in the Senate — a tenuous 31-30, with Felder as the 31st vote — went along with Felder in making this a priority. As such, Felder announced he would remain with their caucus for the final five weeks of session.
That is why the Democratic party establishment has placed a red X on Felder’s back. That is why Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spooked by a primary challenge from the left, threatened to penalize him if the Democrats take control of the Senate next year.
And that is why it is so important for the frum community to get out and vote in the primary next Thursday.
It is rare that a vote in Albany should so strongly impact us. But Felder made a difference in our lives. He took a political gamble on behalf of his constituents over his party.
Felder is hugely popular in the district. But with a rare Thursday primary — especially coming two days after Rosh Hashanah — there is a cause for concern in a climate in which a young leftist was able to defeat a longtime Queens congressman because few bothered voting.
Coming out next Thursday for Simcha Felder will show Albany and Gov. Cuomo that his actions have the full backing of his district and people around the state who care about our yeshivos.
Anything less would be compromising our rights. And that would be an outrage.