Borough Park, NY – On Tuesday September 9th the democratic primary for New Yorks 21st Senate district took place and in a stunning display of voter apathy Councilman Simcha Felder failed to unseat incumbent Kevin Parker. With all the polling sites in the number broke down with 49% to Kevin Parker, 36% to Simcha Felder and nearly 14% for Kendall Stewart and only 2340 votes separating Mr. Felder from Parker.
Many may remember Kevin Parker making headlines for assaulting a traffic agent while repeatedly screaming “do you know who I am”? This was followed by mandatory anger management classes and what would have appeared to be a loss of political clout and confidence from his constituency.
While casual political observers may simply be concerned with the win/loss column it of far greater importance to understand why despite raising more than twice the amount of campaign money than his competitors combined and a masterfully planned and executed campaigned managed by the politically savvy Y. Phillip Goldfeder, did Mr. Felder fail to unseat Kevin Parker?
The 21st Senate district is a diverse district that includes Hispanics, African Americans, Carribean Americans and Orthodox Jews. The neighborhoods include Kensington, Ditmas Park, East Flatbush sections of Flatbush and sections of Boro Park. Based on the location of a polling site political analyst can determine exactly which groups are voting for which candidates and which communites are coming out to vote.
What can be concluded from preliminary evaluations is that Mr. Felder pulled in approximately 3100 votes from the African American and Carribean American community and approximately 3800 votes from the Jewish community.
The latter number represent about 45% of the potential voters from the Jewish community in the 21st Senate District. 45% is an awful turnout. It is embarrassing and it reflective of the apathy that seems to be so pervasive. On September 9th the Jewish Community of the 21st district missed two major opportunities. 1. In Felder they missed being represented by one of their own, a powerhouse of an individual who serves his community with genuine dedication and regard. It will be a long time until a similarly qualified candidate will have the chance to run in a primary with a similar slate of candidates. But, perhaps even more importantly they have shown that they are politically insignificant. They are neither a threat nor an asset.
A community that cant even be bothered to support a candidate who is one of their own has made a very clear statement and the elected officials and political parties are listening. If numbers broke down differently and Felder would have lost but 90% or more of the Jewish vote would have come out to support him, it would have still been a flexing of political muscle and would have let the victor know this is a community that matters and needs to be respected. But that is not the case.
I write this not to put down specific Brooklyn neighborhoods but rather as a lesson to us all and warning for future elections. The Orthodox Jewish community is its own special interest group with unique needs. The importance of being politically significant is critical for ongoing services, programs, and benefits. While there will always be individuals that refuse to vote with the brilliant mantra of “my vote doesn’t count” or the individual that wont register to vote for fear of being called to jury duty even though they have already made the list through tax rolls and DMV records, it is important that communities as a whole instill the value of voting and creating well organized voter drives and show high percentages of voter turnout. There is no valid excuse.