Former Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who has raised nearly $70,000 for Democrat William Thompson Jr.’s mayoral bid, will endorse Thompson and campaign for him in the Crown Heights Orthodox Jewish community on Sunday, sources tell The Jewish Week.
“It’s exciting to know our good friend Sen. Al D’Amato is coming out for another good friend, whose father represented our community in the City Council,” said Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, chairman of Community Board 9 in Crown Heights. He was referring to William Thompson, Sr., a now-retired poitician and judge who enjoyed strong support from Jewish Democrats.
“Bill Thompson [Jr.] is not a new entity for Crown Heights,” Goldstein said. “He has a more than 40-year record.” Thompson worked on his father’s campaigns and later as an aide in the Brooklyn borough president’s office and was president of the Board of Education before he was elected city comptroller in 2001.
D’Amato, 76, is also a good friend of the neighborhood’s Orthodox community, having been a strong defender of its interests in the years after the August 1991 riots that led the community to file a federal lawsuit. The suit claimed the NYPD and then-Mayor David Dinkins did not protect Crown Heights Jews during nearly four days of violence that resulted in one death. It was settled by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1998.
D’Amato’s office did not immediately return a call for comment, but a former aide, Jeff Wiesenfeld, said he would be at his old boss’ side for the post-Rosh HaShanah rally on Kingston Avenue at 4 p.m. Wiesenfeld said D’Amato was backing Thompson both in the primary and general election, should he win the Democratic nomination.
“That’s his candidate,” said Wiesenfeld. “He believes [Thompson] will unite all the people.” D’Amato previously expressed his backing of Thompson following a candidates’ forum in the spring, Wiesenfeld said.
Since leaving office after his 1998 defeat by Democrat Charles Schumer, D’Amato has become a high-priced consultant and lobbyist, founding Park Strategies with his brother, Armand, and he has raised money for other Democrats such as Eliot Spitzer, Davd Paterson and Andrew Cuomo when they were governor or running for governor, The New York Times reported. But he has not raised funds in a city mayoral election before.
Noting that Park Strategies has numerous clients with business before the city, the Times quoted D’Amato in March as saying Thompson was the best choice among the Democrats. “Some of them are anti-growth, anti-development, just plain wrong,” he said then, adding that Thompson “doesn’t frighten business.”
The Campaign Finance Board’s database shows D’Amato raised $69,800 for Thompson’s 2013 campaign but did not assist other campaigns in the city. (The Long Island-based D’Amato won’t get a vote in the election, however.)
The Republican frontrunner in this year’s race is Joseph Lhota, a former deputy to Giuliani who is running with his former boss’ strong backing.
D’Amato and Giuliani have a political rivalry dating back to 1994, when the Republican Giuliani backed Democrat Mario Cuomo for re-election as governor over D’Amato’s favored candidate, George Pataki, who prevailed in that race and the next two. Giuliani and D’Amato have since buried the hatchet.
But if Thompson prevails in next week’s Democratic primary — the latest polls have him in second place — and faces off against Lhota, it could reopen old wounds.
Asked his take on this, Wiesenfeld told The Jewish Week, “You’re reading too much into it.”
Also campaigning for Orthodox votes this week is Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who will greet last-minute shoppers outside Seasons kosher supermarket on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, Wednesday morning.