At Witt’s End: De Blasio, Clarke and an Orthodox Jewish Challenge

Congress, Elections, Witt's end
Former City Council Member David Greenfield, left, and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, right.
Stephen Witt

It comes as no surprise that shortly after former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his candidacy for the newly drawn 10th Congressional District that would be candidates Assembly Member Robert Carroll and state Senator Brad Hoylman announced they won’t be running.

That’s because de Blasio is so strong a frontrunner he may wind up running nearly unopposed.

Unlike the old District 10, where most of the power and votes came from Manhattan, the newly drawn district’s power and voting base, which includes all of Lower Manhattan, is now in the white liberal brownstone belt of Brooklyn – de Blasio’s home base and which he represented in the City Council. 

De Blasio has very strong ties with the Boro Park Orthodox Jewish side of the district as both Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein and Yerchim Silber, director of New York Government Relations for Agudath Israel of America worked for him. Eichenstein when de Blasio was mayor, and Silber when he was in the city council.

On the progressive side, a good many founders and executive board members of the reform minded New Kings Democrats were given patronage jobs in the de Blasio Administration. Additionally, de Blasio remains close with Comptroller Brad Lander, the local PTA and the Park Slope Civic Council.

While both Rep. Mondaire Jones and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou announced they are running, neither has a base in Brooklyn. Jones, who is running as an LGBTQ+ candidate may even have trouble getting the endorsement of the LAMDA Independent Democratic Club of Brooklyn, which also is located in Park Slope.

While de Blasio looks like a shoo in, the redistricting of Rep. Yvette Clarke’s 9th Congressional District could open the door for a strong Orthodox Jewish candidate. As former City Council Member and current CEO of the Met Council of Jewish Poverty David Greenfield put it in a tweet, 95% of Boro Park, Flatbush & Crown Heights Orthodox Jews are now combined into one congressional district – Clarke’s 9th Congressional District.

 

Greenfield’s shout out to City Council Member Kalman Yeger and Eichenstein for their successful lobbying for a more Jewish district is also telling. Combined, Greenfield, Echenstein and Yeger bring three of the highest political IQs in the city. 

Among those that may be looking at the seat include Greenfield himself. One of the Democratic Party’s best fundraisers in the city, he is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. and Touro College in New York City, where he graduated summa cum laude and was valedictorian.

As for Clarke, there’s no love lost between her and Kings County Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn and Mayor Eric Adams – both of whom have very close ties with Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community.

Should a strong Orthodox Jewish candidate emerge, one can expect a fairly contentious primary with both the Black and Jewish communities trading barbs. While peace loving and open minded in the majority, there are strains of bigotry in both communities that could come into play.

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