Gaining significant inroads among Jews seems unlikely for Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino as he heads into the final weeks of the election. His Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, was warmly received by leaders of the chasidic community Sunday — a flexible element of Jewish voters who are least likely to consider party lines — and a poll showed a huge disparity in Cuomo’s favor.
The Siena College poll released Tuesday found that three-quarters of Jews favor Cuomo, the state attorney general, compared to just 16 percent who said they’d vote for Paladino, a real estate developer from Buffalo who has embraced the angry, anti-big government Tea Party movement. That was the largest share of ethnic support for Cuomo after African Americans, who chose Cuomo at a rate of 94 percent to 0 for Paladino. Overall, 56 percent of the 636 likely voters polled by the college support Cuomo and 32 percent prefer Paladino.
Jewish voters also told the pollsters they were firmly committed to their choice, with 72 percent saying there is “no chance” they will change their mind before Election Day.
“Even if the margin of error was 10 percent, you’re talking about a blowout among Jewish voters for Cuomo,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. He said the likely factors were strong Jewish affiliation with the Democratic Party and the fact that most Jews live downstate and so their first impressions of Paladino have been defined by recent negative news coverage, not by his profile as a business leader in his home territory in western New York.
A Marist College poll released Sept. 30 found that 62 percent of Jews surveyed preferred Cuomo and 24 percent Paladino.
“The Jewish vote traditionally goes to the Democrat in state and local races,” said Ester Fuchs, a professor of political science at Columbia University and former adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “The disenchanted Tea Party voters that seem to be Paladino’s base, you would not find that strand of voter typically in the Jewish community. So it shouldn’t be surprising that with a strong Democratic nominee vowing to clean up Albany that Jewish voters strongly support that candidate.”
To win on Nov. 2, Cuomo will have to overcome public revulsion over four years of political and legal scandal in Democrat-ruled Albany involving governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and ex-comptroller Alan Hevesi, who pleaded guilty to a felony corruption charge last week stemming from his management of the state pension fund.
But Fuchs said “Cuomo is not associated in the voters’ minds with those two former governors, and the dysfunction of Albany is primarily attributed to the legislature, where Andrew Cuomo never sat.” Cuomo’s poll numbers, Fuchs said, are “a testament to his ability to separate himself from the trash.”
When asked in the Siena poll if Andrew Cuomo was “too much of an Albany insider to effectively reform government,” only 26 percent of the Jewish respondents agreed.
But 74 percent of Jews agree with the statement “Carl Paladino is a loose cannon who doesn’t have the temperament to be governor.” The poll was taken after Paladino’s much publicized angry run-in with New York Post State Editor Fred Dicker, in which the candidate threatened to “take out” Dicker for supposedly sending a photographer to get a picture of Paladino’s out-of-wedlock daughter.
Cuomo was warmly received on Sunday by both factions of the Satmar chasidic sect, who together have thousands of followers in New York City and upstate Orange County.
“We have a special relationship that goes back many years,” the attorney general and son of three-term governor Mario Cuomo said during one of the meetings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as seen on a YouTube video.
Recalling his work as a 23-year-old campaign manager for his father’s successful gubernatorial run in 1982, Andrew Cuomo said, “When he started out it was very hard. He was running against Ed Koch. Very few people supported him. You were very good to my father early on.”
He added that as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “we did a lot of work together, a lot of housing work and social service work and if I’m successful as governor we can have an excellent partnership and do a lot of good work together.”
At the meeting Cuomo pledged his support for expansion of a state tuition assistance program that would include religious schools and, according to some reports, also discussed a controversial circumcision procedure that Orthodox leaders have fought to uphold as New York City’s health department considered banning it on grounds that it can spread disease. Cuomo apparently took no position on that matter.
Education is a key issue for Orthodox Jews in this election, said public relations consultant Ezra Friedlander, who attended the chasidic meetings with Cuomo.
“How the government can be more helpful to yeshiva parents is probably the most important issue of concern to the Orthodox Jewish community by far,” said Friedlander.
Paladino on Sept. 21 was also warmly received by a group of about 40 rabbis and other Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who praised his conservative social values.
One area where Paladino may find an opening is Crown Heights, home of the Lubavitch chasidim. Hanina Sperlin, a member of the political action committee of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council said that since taking office as attorney general Cuomo has declined invitations to visit the community or to attend the Council’s dinner. The group has even asked other elected officials to intervene, to no avail, said Sperlin.
“I was a little taken aback that he was in Williamsburg on Sunday, a 10-minute drive from Crown Heights, and he didn’t even pop in,” said Sperlin. “But I’m sure before Election Day he will come.”
In any case, Sperlin said he personally could not support Paladino because of the candidate’s affirmation of nasty comments made by an upstate official about Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, using the terms “Hitler” and “anti-Christ.”
“Anything that happens to Shelly Silver happens to the Jewish community at large,” said Sperlin, noting the speaker’s support for the Crown Heights community.
Billionaire financier George Soros, whose hidden support for the left-wing peace lobby J Street was at the center of a recent controversy, also gives heavily to many local political causes and Democratic politicians.
A search of the state Campaign Finance Board database turns up $1,121,073 in donations from Soros and his family members to committees and candidates since 2000.
But there appears to be no greater single beneficiary than Eric Schneiderman, the Democrat candidate for attorney general. Soros, a Holocaust survivor and Israel critic whose substantial donations to J Street were concealed by that group until last month, gave Schneiderman $10,000, while his sons and daughter-in-law contributed a total of $111,000. The most recent donation of $10,000, from Soros’ son, Jonathan, came on Sept. 30.
Others supported by the family include Brooklyn state Senator Kevin Parker, Nassau Assemblyman Craig Johnson and Manhattan state Sen. Liz Kruger. But no name appears on the list as often as Schneiderman’s. Cuomo, for example, has received far less support: $10,000 in 2002, $5,000 in 2008 and $5,000 this July.
“Because of the wide range of support this campaign is generating, Eric Schneiderman literally has thousands of contributors, and doesn’t take his cues from any of them,” said a campaign spokesman Alix Anfang. “Eric will be a steadfast champion for issues of concern to the Jewish people, which is why he has been endorsed by leaders like Eliot Engel, Jerrold Nadler, and Anthony Weiner.