Former Councilman Simcha Felder has announced a bid for the state Senate in a newly created district that includes several heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhoods. “I look forward, God willing, to the opportunity once again to serve the community and the people of New York State,” Felder told the haredi newspaper Hamodia on Wednesday.
According to reports, former City Councilman Noach Dear, who preceded Felder in the City Council, is considering a run for the same Senate seat. Dear is a veteran of many campaigns with strong name recognition in the district and a proven prowess in fundraising. He is currently a Civil Court Judge and served on the Taxi and Limousine Commission after leaving the Council due to term limits in 2001. Dear has run for office as both a Democrat and Republican.
State Republicans hope the district will help them hold onto or widen their majority in the state's upper house, now divided 32-30 with the Democrats. The district includes areas that elected a Republican, Bon Turner, to Congress in a special election last year.
Felder, an Orthodox Jew, is a Democrat, but was reported to have met with Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who encouraged him to run. A conservative Democrat in the Senate would be a crucial ally for the Republicans in pushing their legislative agenda.
In a brief phone interview Friday, Felder said "I don't believe that belonging to political parties is a religious oath. I believe it's important to work with everyone and anyone who will help the Senate district and that's what I intend to do."
Felder is currently a New York City deputy comptroller under John Liu. He will retain the position during the campaign. Once seen as a strong contender for mayor, Liu has seen his political fortunes fall because of fundraising irregularities that led to the arrest of his campaign treasurer.
Asked if he would still support Liu if he ran for mayor, Felder would only say "I look forward, God willing, to working with him in his current position and in any future positions."
Felder ran for Senate once before in Flatbush in 2006 but lost the Democratic primary to the incumbent, Kevin Parker. Felder was elected to the City Council in 2001 and re-elected twice, but resigned shortly after winning his third term to take the job with Liu.
The man who succeeded Felder in the Council, David Greenfield, has been an ardent opponent of the Super District, saying it is essentially a Jewish "ghetto" that dilutes the community's power by removing voters from surrounding districts.
"As the district stands, it's there now, irrespective of how anyone feels about it," said Felder. "I can do the best job anyone can to represent the district."