Multiple political party disorder

Simcha Felder (center) at his election-night victory party, flanked by campaign manager O’Brien Murray (left) and adviser Kalman Yeger. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s loss soured the celebration. Photo: David Winograd

For Democrats across the country, Tuesday’s election results were a cause for celebration. But for Democrat Simcha Felder, a former member of the City Council was victorious in his state Senate race for District 17, a newly created seat in Brooklyn, the outcome was bittersweet.

Although it was a victory party, the mood was sober at Felder’s office on Tuesday night. Felder, his staff, and other attendees were thrilled he had prevailed over his Republican opponent, Sen. David Storobin. At the same time, they were upset about the loss of another Republican: presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom Felder, and other local elected officials, had endorsed during the campaign.

After the first presidential debate on October 6, Felder’s campaign sent out a press release applauding Romney, asserting that his performance “showed America why he belongs in the White House.”

Felder supports the Republican political platform, according to his campaign manager, E. O’Brian Murray.

That includes the Affordable Care Act, the law making health insurance easier and less expensive to access — on that, Murray said in a September interview, Felder “firmly supports Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.” Murray noted, however, they had not extensively discussed national issues.

Felder — who until now has worked as New York City’s Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Accounting —  has also lauded the small-government fiscal positions advocated by vice presidential candidate Ryan. In 2008, Felder claimed that he only voted for Barack Obama in the New York primary because he had a higher chance of defeat against John McCain.

On September 13th, Felder waged a successful write-in campaign to gain the Conservative Party line in addition to his Democratic spot on the ballot, ousting Storobin. The head of the Conservative Party, Jerry Kassar, endorsed Felder, calling him a “true conservative who shares our values,” according to a press release from Felder’s campaign.

Felder’s status as an elected Democrat with conservative values may now play a pivotal role in determining which party has majority control over the New York’s Senate in January.

It is still unclear which party will have the majority control of the Senate in January. The GOP currently has a majority 33 out of 62 seats, but lost a handful of critical races on Tuesday. Currently Democrats have 31 seats to the Republicans’ 30, with two races yet to be decided. (Redistricting added a 63rd seat as part of a GOP attempt to bolster its majority.)

However, the elected Democrats include four state Senators who formed an independent caucus last year, and have not expressed whether they will support a Democrat or Republican for majority leader. If at least one member of this caucus chooses to join the Republicans, the Democrats will find themselves in a precarious situation.

Rumors have surfaced for months that Felder may caucus with the Republicans. If he chooses to ofiically cross the aisle, he may be the tipping point the Republicans need to maintain control of the Senate.

In an interview at his victory party, Felder said, “I’m going to caucus with the party that will allow me to bring the community the most benefit.”

The state Senate district he will represent in January, the newly formed District 17,  includes Borough Park, which is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in the world and where 79 percent of voters favored John McCain in 2008.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district overlaps Felder’s District 17, also attended Felder’s victory party. Like Felder, Hikind is a Democrat who supported Mitt Romney.

Hikind says he believes that that Felder should join the Republican caucus.

“I think he will. I hope he will,” said Hikind, at the victory party at Felder’s office. “Simcha will be amazing in Albany.”

Felder’s campaign manager, O’B Murray, declined to say when Felder would announce his decision. For now, “He is enjoying the victory,” he said.

Additional reporting by David Winograd.

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