By David Winograd
The outcome of Thursday’s Conservative Primary in Brooklyn’s newly created 17th district is still up in the air, as candidates for state senate await official results from the board of elections. In a contest that is turning out to be closer than expected, Republican State Senator David Storobin faced an unlikely challenge from Democrat Simcha Felder, who ran as a write-in candidate.
New York’s fusion voting system allows candidates for public office to run on multiple party lines. The Conservative Party nomination is highly coveted by both candidates, as they compete for votes in a district with a large Orthodox community that tends to be more conservative than the rest of New York City. Storobin was expected to win the Conservative primary after he received the endorsement of the party’s local chair Jerry Kassar, but as primary day approached, Felder indicated that he too hoped to be the party’s general election candidate.
Write-in candidates face significant procedural obstacles at the polls, including illegible voter handwriting on submitted ballots. Nevertheless, victory is possible, especially in low-turnout races like Thursday’s primary. Both campaigns said the race could come down to a handful of votes.
“We know the race is going to be close,” said Storobin campaign manager David Sieling. Sieling said Storobin’s grassroots support in the district was strong but expressed concerns over procedural problems he and his staff observed at the polls. “At least 3 sites had incidents where voters were given the wrong ballot,” he explained, adding that the campaign may have lost more than a dozen votes, if confused voters failed to request a Conservative ballot.
Felder campaign manager O.B. Murray added to the speculation that his candidate could score an upset. In a press release on Friday, he stated that, “Unofficial tallies from the Board of Elections show David Storobin with no more than 87 votes. Our records show Simcha Felder will have at least 110 votes when the ballots are tallied.” He continued that he is “confident that the true Conservative will win this primary and Simcha Felder will be the Conservative Party candidate” in the general election.
A Felder victory would buck the Conservative Party establishment. Today, Chairman Kassar reiterated his support for David Storobin but also said that the party would support the winner of Thursday’s primary: “The Conservative Party will support the candidate on the party line in November, and we anticipate that will be David Storobin.” He added that the party has worked with Felder in the past: ”We endorsed him when he ran for City Council, but we were disappointed…that he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and raised taxes” as a Councilmember.
The New York State Board of Elections had not yet issued official results when it closed Monday evening. Regardless of who wins the Conservative Primary, the two candidates will face off in the general election in November.