The long and often bitter Democratic primary for mayor ended today with William Thompson, Jr., becoming the last of the key Democrats to throw his support behind frontrunner Bill de Blasio.
But it’s unclear if Thompson’s Jewish backers, including a substantial, Brooklyn-based Orthodox contingent, would switch with him or support the Republican nominee Joseph Lhota.
“It’s wonderful that the Democrats are united,” said Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations in Williamsburg, shortly after the announcement. The rabbi backed Thompson in the primary. “But the leadership will have to sit down and discuss what is best.”
Rabbi Niederman is part of the Satmar chasidic faction that follows Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, one of two sons of the late Satmar rebbe. The faction that follows Aaron Teitelbaum, the second son, backed de Blasio in the primary.
Rabbi Niederman said he and others were seeking meetings with both de Blasio and Lhota. “We want to make sure that the elderly, children and poor receive services and business in the city can flourish.”
The rabbi then added “and that services will be delivered in a way that that conforms to each community’s religious and cultural norms.”
Two prominent Brooklyn Orthodox backers of Thompson, Chaskell Bennett and Jonathan Schenker, declined to comment when reached by The Jewish Week Monday, saying they were digesting the latest developments.
Speaking from Israel, Leon Goldenberg, a realtor from Broklyn active in Orthodox politics who backed de Blasio said he believed the presumptive nominee will do well with Orthodox communities, who tend to vote and contribute as a bloc.
“We ae not one large community, we are made up of many different communities with different needs, but yeshivas are what bind us all together,” he said. “[De Blasio] understands the needs of the yeshivas.”
He noted that de Blasio represented a Brooklyn district with a large Orthodox population on the outskirts of Borough Park in the Council from 2001-2009. “When [the former councilman] Steve DiBrienza was term limited out, there were eight people running for the office and [de Blasio] was the only one who reached out to the Orthodox community,” Goldenberg said. “He spent time with us, understanding us.”
On Friday, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, another Thompson backer, said he was leaning toward backing de Blasio but acknowledged he may be a tough sell among conservative voters like those in Borough Park and Flatbush who oppose increasing taxes on wealthy families or limiting sto-and-frisk.
“We will have to have some very serious conversations,” Hikind said.
Thompson’s concession completes a stunning turnaround for de Blasio, the public advocate and former councilman, who polled low for much of the race, then saw his political fortunes rise after Anthony Weiner’s campaign became mired in more scandal and Christine Quinn failed to energize voters to hold her early lead. De Blasio successfully tapped into resentment against the Bloomberg administration’s controversial third term and the police stop-and-frisk tactics that were slammed by a federal judge in the middle of the campaign.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have inadvertently boosted de Blasio’s campaign with remarks to New York Magazine that de Blasio’s campaign was “racist and class warfare,” because he used his interracial family in ads and stressed financial inequities in the city.
De Blasio won about 40 percent of the Democratic vote in last week’s primary but Thompson, in second place with 25 percent, held out hopes that absentee ballots and recanvassing might force a runoff election.
According to The New York Times, Thompson’s advisors convinced him that even in a runoff he had little to gain, and he will throw his support behind de Blasio today at City Hall.
On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg said he would stay out of the campiagn and leave it up to voters to decide between de Blasio and Republican nominee Joseph Lota, a former deputy mayor and chairman of the MTA.