Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Rival Satmar sects agree on Cuomo-Hochul 

Brooklyn’s two competing Satmar Hasidic sects are uniting behind Governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, according to leaders in both camps.

The rival Zaloynim and Aroynem factions each received a visit from Hochul, Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor, in recent weeks, leaders of both groups told Capital.

“Her heart is with the majority of New Yorkers who are poor, or are definitely not rich,” said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the powerful United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, and a leading figure in the Zaloynim community.

Hochul met with Niederman and other sect leaders on August 26. She is currently trying to fend off a surprisingly strong challenge in next week's primary from Columbia law professor Tim Wu, and to explain to downstate Democrats her relatively conservative record in Congress, which included supporting gun rights and opposing some pro-immigration measures.

“I admire what she did,” Niederman said, pointing to their joint support for the Affordable Care Act, which Hochul has suggested played into her defeat for reelection in 2012. (She also touted some votes against parts of the bill during that campaign.)

“You stand for what you believe in. You don’t flip flop,” Niederman said, while noting that “no one is perfect.”

Niederman said the group's support for the Cuomo-Hochul ticket was the result of measuring the governor’s ability to be “responsive to the needs of the community.”

“The issue of jobs and health coverage and so on, there is a track record of achievement—major achievements—from the governor for the needs from the community,” he continued. “I believe the community in Williamsburg … will strongly support her and the governor.”

Hochul’s meeting with rival Aroynem leaders on the same day was similarly well-received.

“Kathy Hochul recently visited with community leaders, impressing us with her sincerity, dedication to hard work, and grasp of the issues facing our communal services and institutions,” two leading Aroynem leaders, Rabbi Moishe Indig and Isaac Sofer of the Central United Talmudical Academy, wrote in a statement.

Indig and Soffer also praised Cuomo’s work on behalf of the Hasidic community, saying, “Whether standing up for increased aid to our schools or supporting help for our large families, Andrew Cuomo has insisted on equity for our communities.”

They continued: “While some special interests are angry with the fiscally responsible course Governor Cuomo has chosen for New York, the Satmar community believes their motivations address only their specific concerns, not the larger good of such a large state. This election is too important for ideological points to be made with a protest vote, Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul deserve our support.”

Michael Tobman, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who works closely with the Aronyem community, said the decision to send Hochul to meet with the Hasidic community was an important one.

“This was a meeting and a conversation that needed to happen," he said. "Support up to that point was not a sure a thing."

The support of both Satmar sects, which often oppose one another in local elections, would seem to add several thousand votes to the columns of both Hochul and Cuomo. The leaders of both sects said they would spend the next week aggressively reaching out to their members ahead of the primary next Tuesday.

“It is a bloc vote," Tobman said. "It’ll be a solid vote. It’s not pulling out X-thousands of votes, 60 percent of which will go for the ticket. One hundred percent will.”

Hochul might need those votes as she faces Wu, who won the endorsement of the New York Times last week, and has forced the Democratic establishment to rally behind Hochul, who is not well-known outside her former congressional district.

Cuomo is facing a challenge from Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, whose spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

“We are proud of the overwhelming support for Democrat Kathy Hochul in every community across the state because of her commitment to building on the progress New York has made over the last four years," said James Freedland, a spokesman for Hochul. "There’s no doubt that Kathy will have the broadest coalition of support for any candidate in the race."


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