The Schumer Factor

The Schumer Factor

There won’t be much of a line at polling booths statewide for Tuesday’s primary. But get up early if you live in a Jewish neighborhood. “Turnout is likely to be very soft among registered Democrats,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the polling institute at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. “We expect 20 to 25 percent. But some groups, most notably Jews, are likely to comprise upward of 30 percent of those who show up.”

Jews are consistently high turnout voters in primaries. But according to Miringoff, there is particularly high interest in this year’s race for Senate.

“Jews are overwhelmingly supportive of [Rep.] Chuck Schumer,” said Miringoff. In a Marist poll released this week, 60 percent of Jewish likely voters in the Democratic primary said they favored the Brooklyn/Queens congressman for the Senate nomination.

Schumer is running against Public Advocate Mark Green, who received the majority of Jewish votes in his re-election race last year and in a 1986 Senate bid, and Geraldine Ferraro, the former congresswoman who has also received heavy Jewish support.

Schumer’s Jewish rating was unmatched by other candidates for statewide office in the poll, said Miringoff.

To cash in on that popularity, the Schumer camp has undertaken a drive to get out the vote on Tuesday.

“I’ve received three calls today from Schumer’s campaign, asking if I’m going to vote,” said Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens on Tuesday. “The fact that Schumer is running is making a lot of Jews come out, especially a lot of traditional Jews. He’s been coming around to the shuls and to Zionist meetings.”

Jews are apparently less enthusiastic about the primary race for governor. City Council Speaker Peter Vallone narrowly leads the field among Jews with 34 percent, according to the Marist poll.

According to Miringoff, higher Jewish turnout indicates Jews have not grown as cynical about politics than other New Yorkers. “They follow politics closer, and more of them still believe that who’s in office matters.” But he adds that they are not impervious to the trend. “Jewish turnout is dropping, but it’s just not dropping as fast [as others].”

Two years ago, Brooklyn Assembly member Rhoda Jacobs survived a tough primary challenge from a candidate who argued that a Jewish woman could not understand the problems of her increasingly Caribbean-American North Flatbush district.

This year, there are similar undertones as the 10-term veteran faces a double challenge from Haitian-born Samuel Nicholas and Trinidad-born Rock Hackshaw. Nicholas is a cousin of alleged police brutality victim Abner Louima, and has been telling the Caribbean press that “in order to bring down the blue wall of silence, there must be change.” Jacobs is rounding up leaders of the Haitian-American community in her district to endorse her re-election bid and counter an endorsement of Nicholas by The New York Times last week.

Some Caribbean critics accuse Nicolas of using his cousin’s misfortune as a means of raising money for his campaign. A fund-raiser for Nicolas was hosted by Johnnie Cochran, who is representing Louima in his civil suit against the police department.Nicholas could not be reached for comment.

As changing demographics transform the 42nd district into one of the city’s most densely populated Caribbean communities, Jacobs has relied in recent years on strong turnout in the southern tip of her turf, which contains a thick chunk of Orthodox Midwood.

“The Jewish vote usually neutralizes the negative vote,” she says.

The race for Schumer’s congressional seat turned ugly last week, with Councilman Noach Dear mailing out negative missives against all three of his opponents.

A flier attacking Anthony Weiner juxtaposes the councilman’s photograph with a rat, a pornographer, and a smoking child — labeling him soft on landlords, porn distributors and the tobacco lobby — while the Katz flier features an image of a woman being attacked, blasting her opposition to a bill requiring AIDS testing for convicted rapists.

“We’ve been concentrating the majority of resources on Noach’s record,” says campaign spokesman John Paone. “But we feel there is a valid contrast in the records of Noach and his opponents.”

But political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, not involved in the race, predicted the strategy would backfire.

“Washington-based consultants, operating without a clue, are using the kind of campaign they think works in Brooklyn,” says Sheinkopf of the brains behind Dear’s mailings. “The problem is it doesn’t work in Brooklyn.”

Meanwhile, in Dear’s 10-minute campaign video, mass-mailed to 20,000 homes last week, he promises to improve standards of education.

He can start by firing the teacher who appears in his video, standing in front a blackboard that reads: “Somebodie’s got to solve the problem.”

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