NEW YORK — With a potential Democratic runoff election looming on the horizon, many New York Jewish community leaders found themselves adopting a “wait and see” approach toward Tuesday’s primaries.
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio won the most votes in the primaries, but may still face a runoff against fellow Democratic candidate Bill Thompson.
With over 90% of the votes counted, Public Advocate de Blasio received 40% of the vote, with Thompson, a former city comptroller, having received 26% of the vote, according to television station NY1. However, with 19,000 absentee and military ballots remaining to be counted next Monday, election officials said the results of the Democratic primary were still considered up in the air. If the additional ballots were to boost Thompson to de Blasio’s level, New York election officials said, a runoff election will be held on October 1.
Exit polls showed that 40% of Jewish voters in the Democratic primary voted for de Blasio, with the remaining voters split between Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
The Democratic contender, whether Thompson or de Blasio, will face the clear Republican primary winner, Joe Lhota, at the ballot box in November.
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Executive Vice President Michael Miller characterized both Lhota and de Blasio as friends of New York’s Jewish community: “Whoever the victor is, we’ll have a very good working relationship with them.”
Bill de Blasio positioned himself in the race as an aggressive, progressive alternative to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on many issues, including the police practice of stop and frisk, which is said to disproportionately focus on young black men, and the rich-poor divide, which, de Blasio contends, was exacerbated during Bloomberg’s terms as mayor.
Anthony Weiner, the only Jewish candidate in the mayor’s race, received an underwhelming 5% of the Democratic primary vote. Many pundits conjectured that Weiner could not recuperate from the resurgence of his sexting and Twitter foibles, which prompted him to resign from Congress in 2011. The scandal resurfaced this summer with the revelation that Weiner had continued to Tweet sexually explicit messages to women after his resignation.
Weiner’s wife, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, did not make an appearance at Weiner’s concession speech Tuesday night, contravening common US political etiquette. In contrast, one of Weiner’s sexting partners, Sydney Leathers, did attempt to crash Weiner’s election night party. After his concession speech, Weiner was driven away, giving a much-photographed obscene gesture to reporters.
Despite Weiner’s Jewish heritage, he was subject to heckling by many fellow Jews on the campaign trail in venues as varied as the Israel Day Parade in June and a Brooklyn bakery just prior to Rosh Hashanah last week.
Another Jewish candidate plagued by scandal, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, lost his race for city comptroller to a Jewish rival, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Spitzer was attempting to make a political comeback after resigning following a revelation that he had visited call girls while in office. Stringer received 52% of the vote to Spitzer’s 48%.
Asked whether Weiner’s and Spitzer’s respective losses reflected some loss of clout in the “Jewish vote,” Miller demurred.
“Yes, Eliot Spitzer, a Jewish candidate, is not going to be the city comptroller…but Jewish candidate Scott Stringer is,” Miller said, noting that the race for public advocate was a toss-up between Letitia James and Dan Squadron, an actively self-identified Jew.
“I think Weiner was an exception because of his personal issues but had there been another candidate without those issues, he or she could have easily caught on,” Miller said. “I think it just goes to prove that New York is a very pluralistic city, a very accepting city — and regardless of individuals’ religion or race, the voting public determines who they feel will be best for the position they were voting for.”
The Jewish Daily Forward’s editor-in-chief Jane Eisner said that without knowing whether there will be a Democratic mayoral run-off, it was difficult to tell what the implications will be for the Jewish community.
“If you compare the Jewish breakdown with that of Catholic and Protestant voters — well, it’s remarkably similar,” Eisner said. “Maybe the take-away is that Jews in New York voted like other New Yorkers, with no one bloc swinging this way or that. It could point to a dissolution of Jewish political clout, but I doubt it, since the front-runner garnered more Jewish votes than anyone else and Jews’ political power here goes well beyond the numbers on Election Day.”