March’s 44th City Council Race Rears Its Head in 13th Congressional Joust
It was months ago, but it never goes away.
Now, the infamous 44th City Council Special Election from March of this year is rearing its head in the 13th Congressional race between Democrat Michael McMahon and Republican Michael Grimm.
At the heart of this are three of the very figures who made March’s election so electric: Councilman David Greenfield, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and Young Republican reformer Jonathan Judge.
Meanwhile, the Jewish blog news site Yeshiva World News (accused by my colleague and others of being pro-Greenfield prior to the March Special Election) has declared the opposing endorsements of Assemblyman Hikind and Councilman Greenfield to be a political “showdown.”
So, what happened in the 44th City Council race? You will recall it was Vito Lopez’s candidate Mr. Greenfield, Dov Hikind-supported Joe Lazar and independent candidate Jonathan Judge (who is the president of the Young Republicans) who were the major frontrunners in the race. The Brooklyn GOP establishment also put up some no-name candidate, as well, but he was accused of forging petition signatures and received around 2% of the vote. Mr. Greenfield won the race ultimately.
That’s the basic background of the race.
Now, Daniel Miller of YWN had this to say (excerpted):
If you thought the race between Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Councilman David Greenfield was over, you haven’t seen anything yet. In their first public break since they made amends after Greenfield’s landslide victory over the Hikind-backed/funded/inspired Joe Lazar, Assemblyman Dov Hikind has decided to endorse a Republican challenger to defeat centrist Democratic Congressman Mike McMahon. Why does this even matter? Because the Hikind/Greenfield split over this race evidences a fundamental difference in philosophies between the two Jewish powerbrokers.
According to Hikind’s detractors, he has no loyalties to any political candidates and routinely makes his endorsement decision at the very last minute depending on whichever way the political wind blows. Hikind’s endorsement of Mike Grimm seems to follow that model. After all, just a few weeks ago Congressman McMahon was an invited guest on the “Dov Hikind Radio Show” where Hikind spent much of the show praising McMahon for his outstanding support of Israel.
So what happened? Polling happened. Recent polls show that Congressman McMahon is more vulnerable than previously thought. As a result, Hikind may have switched his support from Democratic McMahon to Republican Grimm to take credit for the possible victory of the Republican challenger. This seems to fit a well-established pattern by Hikind. Even as far back as 1994, Hikind seemed to evidence this “endorsement by polling results” strategy. At the very last minute, Hikind abandoned his close political ally Governor Mario Cuomo to endorse new-comer George Pataki in the hotly contested race for New York Governor. Coincidentally, polling showed that Pataki was on the cusp of defeating Cuomo. Ironically, Hikind could not possibly have imagined at the time that Mario’s son, Andrew Cuomo, would come back 16 years later as the Governor of New York. Sources say that Andrew has neither forgotten nor forgiven Hikind for turning on his father at the very last minute for seeming political expediency.
This brings us back to the current contest between Mike McMahon and Mike Grimm. Truth be told, the fate of the US Congress does not rest on this singular seat. By all accounts, the margin which will decide control of Congress will be a large one. So why did Greenfield decide to back McMahon? Those familiar with his thinking believe that there are two things driving him: 1. Greenfield has a soft spot for moderate Democrats – McMahon fits that mold to a tee. He voted in favor of middle-income tax cuts but stood up to Nancy Pelosi to vote against Obama’s controversial health care reform. 2. Greenfield follows the AIPAC model on supporters of Israel. The unofficial rule of AIPAC is that they always support incumbents who are pro-Israel. The reason is simple: if you don’t support incumbents who support Israel, those incumbents have little incentive to continue supporting Israel. In that regard, McMahon also fits the mold – he has an outstanding record of consistently supporting Israel. In Jewish terminology this falls under the category of “hakoras hatov” or gratitude for McMahon’s unwavering support of Israel…
As for Greenfield, he is a blank slate on endorsements. However, if Greenfield utilizes his Bloomberg-inspired style of micro-targeting voters like he did in his own election, he could make a real difference in this race. If he can identify, target and deliver Jewish voters for McMahon, Greenfield’s value as a political power-broker will take him well beyond the Jewish community.
Clearly, this is slanted against Assemblyman Hikind, who Team Grimm has recently called an “iconic Jewish leader.”
Hikind, for his part, had this to say of Grimm:
I am endorsing Michael Grimm because I know he will fight for New York and the Jewish community when he is in Congress. Michael Grimm is committed to the defense of Israel, preventing terrorism, and keeping our country safe and strong. As a candidate, Michael Grimm is in a class of his own.
This was a very interesting development, which is why we were so quick to post it to our blog.
But thereafter we could not ignore the emails sent to us regarding the alleged involvement of former City Council candidate and Vito Lopez nemesis Jonathan Judge in this affair.
As one of our commentators noted on an earlier piece, it was Mr. Judge who supported Assemblyman Hikind’s choice for the 44th City Council race after he was thrown off the ballot by the corrupt Board of Elections and a Vito Lopez-appointed judge. Mr. Judge then supported conservative Democrat Joe Lazar in the race, much to Hikind’s delight, I’m sure.
More recently, Mr. Judge, considered by many to be the most visible reform figure in the Brooklyn GOP, endorsed Mr. Grimm for Congress prior to the GOP primary. This was seen by one political insider (who contacted us directly under the condition of anonymity) as an important moment in the run-up to the race:
To local Republicans, Judge’s support of Grimm sent a statement that Michael Grimm was not a creature of the establishment. Grimm was already receiving that sort of criticism across the Narrows in Staten Island, since Guy Molinari is seen as “the establishment” there to many. But in Brooklyn, Marty Golden and his cabal are seen as the “powers that be” (laughably). It was not coincidence then that Judge and the besieged 49th Assembly District leadership–both at odds with the Brooklyn GOP leadership–endorsed Grimm in Brooklyn over Golden-backed neophyte Michael Allegretti. The message was clear: Michael Grimm is the reform candidate.
Let’s not forget: Mr. Grimm did indeed carry Brooklyn.
So, now it is interesting–if merely coincidental–that Dov Hikind is also supporting Mr. Grimm. While we do not suspect this has anything to do with Mr. Judge, we are in the process of contacting him regarding the rumors.
Meanwhile, The Daily News is drawing a contrary image of the “showdown” painted by Yeshiva World News:
…[D]espite reports, such as this one from today’s Yeshiva World website, political peace continues to reign between Greenfield and Democratic state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who had tried his best to prevent Greenfield’s election to the Council in March by backing rival Joseph Lazar.
“We’re only married a short time,” Hikind assures. “There’s no problem between us. We’re working closely on a number of issues.”
So what if they have taken opposite sides in the red-hot Congressional race on Staten Island between NY-13 Democratic incumbent Michael McMahon — Greenfield’s choice — and Republican challenger Michael Grimm — Hikind’s freshly endorsed choice!
It’s just some people trying to stir the pot, said Hikind, and their conflicting preferences in the Congressional race is irrelevant to his relationship with Greenfield—who did not return a call for comment. (Probably too busy campaigning against himself.)
“I like the guy — forgive me,” Hikind said of Grimm, whom he endorsed Wednesday. “I do what I think is right. I’ve never checked polls. I have nothing bad to say about McMahon, but I like Grimm’s position of being against a two-state solution regarding Israel [and Palestine].”
The endorsement from Hikind, who is known for jumping party lines to make endorsements, was welcomed said Steven Stites, Grimm’s campaign spokesman. “He’s one of those guys in the communities of New York who’s seen as an iconic leader,” Stites said of Hikind.
The 13th Congressional District takes in all of Staten Island, where there are strong pockets of Jewish voters, and a piece of Brooklyn, largely Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, with some pockets of Jewish voters.
Grimm’s race, unlike Greenfield’s, won’t be a landslide for either candidate. Grimm has some notable endorsements besides Hikind’s, such as from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, that could play well in the conservative-leaning district.
Whatever our suspicions may be, we can’t be sure of anything more than what we’ve heard thus far.
Hopefully, we will soon have some more answers.
But nevertheless, it is interesting to see these elements from the 44th City Council race interacting with the McMahon/Grimm clash.