6 November 2012 – Brooklyn, N.Y. – Simcha Felder (center) addresses supporters at his campaign office after winning the race for state senate in Brooklyn’s 17th senate district. Dov Hikind (right) and David Greenfield (left) endorsed Felder early in the race.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — As Democratic President Barack Obama swept to a re-election victory Tuesday night, Brooklyn voters sent a Republican and a conservative Democrat to Albany to represent their newly drawn Senate districts.
Former City Council member Simcha Felder won the state Senate seat in the predominantly Jewish District 17, while incumbent Sen. Marty Golden defeated Andrew Gounardes in District 22.
Voters came out to the polls, even as the hurricane that ravaged part of the borough last week disrupted regular polling sites and caused confusion and long waits.
Felder, who ran on both the Democratic and Conservative party lines, defeated Republican Sen. David Storobin, winner of a March special election to replace former state Sen. Carl Kruger. Felder won with a decisive 66 percent of the vote: 36,641 votes to Storobin’s 18,105 votes.
Meanwhile, Golden defeated Democrat Gounardes, an attorney for the Citizens Committee for New York City, with 35,720 to 25,761 votes.
Both Felder and Golden were the heavy favorites heading into the election, with substantial financial advantages over their opponents. Eleven days before the general election, Felder, with $203,274, had nearly four times as much cash on hand as Storobin, who had $50,081. Golden raised $589,883, or 10 times as much as Gounardes’ $57,744.
“The community is the true winner tonight,” said O.B. Murray, Felder’s campaign manager. “The men and women throughout the entire district that he is representing will be well served.”
In a press release after his victory, Felder said he would work to reduce the tax burden on the community and get relief for parents paying tuition for non-public schools.
“Whether through tax credits, vouchers or whatever you want to call it – the state has an obligation to our families,” he said. “And I’ll go to Albany and do my best to collect on that obligation.”
“Tonight might seem like a celebration of a victory,” said Felder. “But we must take a moment to reflect on the anguish of so many of our friends from across New York who are still recovering from the aftermath of the hurricane. …We will continue doing everything we can – as a community – to bring them every possible assistance we can offer.”
Pinny Ringel, Storobin’s chief of staff, declined to comment. A call placed early Wednesday morning to Storobin’s campaign office and an additional e-mail sent Wednesday afternoon went unanswered.
Felder, who waged a successful write-in campaign in September to defeat Storobin in the Conservative primary, has suggested he might caucus with the GOP in the Senate. Murray declined to comment. “We are just celebrating our victory tonight,” he said.
It is still unclear which party will have the majority control of the Senate in January. The GOP currently holds 33 out of 62 seats, however, the Democrats won a handful of critical races on Tuesday. It’s likely that the Democrats have a mathematical majority, however four state Democrats, who formed an independent caucus last year, have not expressed whether they will support a Democrat or Republican for majority leader.
If Felder does choose to caucus with the Republican party, he could play a pivotal role in maintaining Republican control of the Senate.
“I think he will. I hope he will,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district overlaps Felder’s District 17, at a victory party at Felder’s office. “Simcha will be amazing in Albany.”
“One of the things about Simcha is he’s a mensch,” Hikind said. “You don’t have to agree with him all the time, but he’s a straight shooter.”
Among voters, the familiarity of the incumbents — in Felder’s case, the former incumbent — influenced their decisions.
“He’s a household name, he treats everyone like an old friend. He will serve the community well,” Yisrael Dom, a resident of District 17, said of Felder.
For Marty Golden, who defeated Gounardes by a 17 point margin, this familiarity played a major role in his victory.
Carroll Hayet, 27, a data manager, said he voted for Golden because he was such a familiar figure and had proved himself an advocate for the community. “I’ve known him for a long time,” Hayet said. “He has put huge efforts in improving the park, making it cleaner, which is good for the community.”
However, his affinity for Republican candidates stopped at the national level. “I’m not feeling comfortable with Romney. He is always contradictory to himself,” he said. “I want someone stand strong in what he believes. Obama can fix his mistakes and brings more changes if he gets another four years.”
Maryland Major, 77, a Bay Ridge resident, voted for Mitt Romney. Regarding President Obama, she said she “wasn’t happy with the way he ran the [last] four years.”
Locally, she voted for Golden.
“First of all, I knew him as a child. He used to play in my mother’s basement with my niece,” she said. “But he’s done a lot for the area both here and Sheepshead Bay and wherever he is.”
Dan Bukszpan, 43 and his wife Asia, 42, voted for Gounardes. “He is optimistic and I think he will fight for his beliefs,” Asia said. “If Marty gives me one million dollars in cash, I might vote for him.”
The Bukszpans also voted for Obama. “Ever since Bush stole the election, it’s impossible for us to consider voting for Republicans,” Dan said.
Even as voters came to the polls and discussed politics, the shadow of last week’s hurricane was omnipresent.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Monday allowing voters in New York City and surrounding counties to vote at any polling place, since so many were closed in the wake of the storm. Areas near Senate Districts 17 and 22, like Gerritsen Beach and Coney Island, were hit particularly hard. Long lines and chaotic crowds of voters ensued.
“It’s been like a stampede,” said Inez Holmes, coordinator at Marlborough Gardens, a polling station south of Prospect Park.
Marlborough Gardens has always been a crowded site; it serves five election districts. But Tuesday, it also served as a polling place for residents whose usual sites were shut down because of Sandy.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that two other polling stations in the area, both public schools, were not being used today.
A police officer on site described the scene as “out of control.”
“Sandy has been problematic,” said Michael Patterson, 56, a coordinator with the Board of Elections, at the PS 170 polling station in Bay Ridge.
The lines at the polling centers did serve as an indication that the hurricane did not significantly hamper voter turnout, a fear of national and local candidates.
“People just want to get out and vote,” said Maryland Major, 77, a polling inspector at PS 170.
Six polling precincts in Brighton Beach and Coney Island were rerouted to Abraham Lincoln High School. Despite the inconvenience, voters were fairly optimistic about the government’s response to Hurricane Sandy in the past week.
Michele Brooks-Cherry, a Brighton Beach resident, was among those whose polling place was relocated. She said she checked the Board of Elections website to ensure she could still vote, and thinks most people in her position did the same.
“Everybody is moving as quickly as they possibly can, given the circumstances,” she said.
The storm also changed the nature of campaigning by state Sen. Marty Golden. Earlier today, Golden handed out flyers promoting FEMA aid instead of his candidacy at a polling site in Gerritsen Beach.
“These people here are without electricity,” Golden told the New York World. “That’s the focus for me.”
Niki Blasina, Alana Abramson, David Winograd, Shadi Bushra, Helga Salinas, Ding Chenjie and Anna Goldenberg contributed to this report.