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Thursday, November 26, 2020
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On Thursday, Nov. 5, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s Community Relations Corner, hosted by CEO Michael Miller, held a post-election analysis featuring Jonathan Greenspun, managing director, Mercury Public Affairs, and Esther Fuchs, professor of political science and international and public affairs at Columbia University.

In addition to discussing the national race, including the Presidential ballot counting and possible recount, they also discussed the Senate and, as of the time of the presentation, the Democrats’ apparent failure to flip the Senate. Since the airing of this program, both Senate races in Georgia are headed to runoffs on Jan. 5. If the incumbent Republicans lose, Democrats will have the upper hand with a Democratic Vice President to break tie votes.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, more than a handful of seats flipped Republican. “We will have a divided government once again; it will make it difficult to move forward with any kind of dramatic policy changes,” explained Fuchs. “That leaves Mitch McConnell in the leadership position in the Senate, so Senate Democrats have not figured out how to [keep] the Senate from stopping their moving forward in their policy agenda.”

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Westchester and the Bronx lost several very senior pro-Israel members of Congress. Representative-elect Jamaal Bowman, who defeated Eliot Engel in the 16th Precinct Congressional primary in June, won decisively in the general election with 83 percent of the vote. On Oct. 8, Bowman visited SAR Academy in Riverdale.

“I was asked to host Jamaal Bowman, and agreed to do so. He comes from the world of education, and was a middle school principal. He was very impressed with SAR, loved our open spaces and was interested in keeping the dialogue open in his new role,” explained SAR Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss. “I think it is critical to develop positive relationships with our elected officials, and we have tried to do that, in general. Teach-NYS has been great at representing New York’s Jewish days schools in Albany, and has served as a model for all.”

Mondaire Jones won the 17th Precinct, the seat vacated by long-time Representative Nita Lowey. Jones defeated two Jewish challengers, Yehudis Gottesfeld and Josh Eisen.

“As one who believes in the value of public service, I will continue working for our residents and communities through advancing our policies and legislation and fighting for our values. I believe politics doesn’t only include those who hold an elected office, but rather includes all of us with a passion for public service and building a safer and happier society. Therefore, I’ll stay active in politics and encourage others to do the same, whether their passion is media engagement, public service, volunteering, campaign advising, policy advising or working groups,” stated Gottesfeld.

White Plains City Council member Justin Brasch stated, “I have known Mondaire Jones since the summer of 2019. We have a very nice working relationship. I plan to build a closer relationship with him and I will certainly express the needs and concerns of the Jewish community to him. Everyone will miss Nita because she had tremendous seniority, which gave her access to the highest levels of leadership in our country. Jones has very big shoes to fill; he will hit the ground running.”

Balance of power in the state legislature remains the same. According to Greenspun, Democrats, who held 40 seats, had hoped for a super-majority that would give them the power to overturn Governor Cuomo’s vetoes. Instead, they lost a few seats. “The Jewish vote is not monolithic in any way,” added Fuchs.

Fuchs also explained that Jews have historically been strong supporters of Democrat candidates in presidential races since polling began. Biden’s polling numbers were about 68 percent of the Jewish vote, lower than Clinton and Obama. “Jews are only two percent of the national electorate. We like to say we punch above our weight; we turn out in large numbers. Israel is an important issue for people on the left and the right in the Jewish community, taxes, race relations and social justice in the tikun olam world, the economy, and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Greenspun noted, “When all the votes are counted, there is no doubt in my mind that Trump will have received more votes from the Orthodox community in this presidential election than any previous Republican president, exceeding Reagan in New York in 1984.”

As soon as this election ends, local races will grab the headlines. Not only will New York City choose its next mayor, the City Council races start early with a special election in December to fill the open District 11 (Bronx) seat of Andy King, who was expelled. Residents of Riverdale may also hold a special election, given that their councilman, Andy Cohen, was just elected State Supreme Court Justice. SAR parent Jessica Haller is one of the announced candidates for the council seat.

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