As promised, this piece documents why the toy balloon known as Dov Hikind’s political power largely consists of hot air.
Let me give Hikind his props.
Hikind knows how to raise money, and, because of his credential as both an elected official who is technically a Democrat and (incredibly) an office holder within the Democratic Party’s governing structure, Hikind is extremely useful to Republicans as someone to be dragged out to illustrate their talking point about how the Democratic Party or some particular Democrat is out of touch with the values of Jewish voters and/or a danger to Israel.
And rare is the election where there is a real contest between the two parties where Hikind does not support the Republican.
Thus, Hikind is far more useful for Republicans as a Democrat than he would be if he changed parties.
But as a political force who can deliver actual votes in Brooklyn to another candidate, Hikind’s presence has proven as allusive as that that of the prophet Elijah at the average Seder.
You may believe he’s been present. And, unlike Elijah, he’ll be happy to empty your wine glass (and your pockets), but otherwise the fact that he’s been there is largely a matter of faith.
Let us reflect, during this season of our Lord, upon the awesome and mighty power of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose strenuous efforts contributed mightily to Hillary Clinton’s landslide victory. Especially notable was Hillary’s stunning victory over John Spencer in Hikind’s own 48th AD, where Clinton got 5878 votes out of the 11,755 cast, for a daunting 50.00% of the total vote and an insurmountable margin over John Spencer of 167 votes. LOL!
And that was a good year; Hikind actually won his AD for his candidate.
In 2010, when Andrew Cuomo was rampaging over Carl Paladino all over creation, Paladino managed to beat Cuomo in Hikind’s AD, 8009 (50.04%) to 7663 (47.88%).
“Yes” you may say, “but those are top of the ticket general elections, where voters have their own views, and even a local figure as powerful as Dov Hikind can only have a limited impact. Dov’s real strength is shown by his ability to deliver in a local Democratic Primary, where his word is like that of one of the holy prophets of truth.”
The actual results convey a different impression.
In 2005, Hikind backed State Senator John Sampson against incumbent Joe Hynes for DA. Within Hikind’s AD, Sampson got 916 votes (28.79%) to Hynes’ 1598 (50.22%), even though Hynes had recently prosecuted a bigshot politically connected Borough Park windbag and Hikind buddy named Bernard “Berish” Freilich (who called himself a “Rabbi,” even though he wasn’t) for trying to intimidate witnesses in sexual abuse prosecutions.
In 2006, Carl Andrews, running for Congress with Hikind’s support, got 94 votes (12.53%) in the portion of Hikind’s AD within the Congressional District. David Yassky got 554 (73.87%).
In 2008, Hikind backed incumbent Kevin Parker for re-election to the State Senate against then Councilman Simcha Felder. In the portions of the SD within Hikind’s AD, Parker got 173 votes (4.68%) to Felder’s 3467 (93.88%).
In 2009, Hikind backed Brad Lander for City Council. Lander managed 219 votes (13.30%) to John Heyer’s 1245 (75.64%) in the portion of the 39th Councilmanic District within Hikind’s AD.
But, you say “this is unfair. It measures black candidates against whites with strong relationships in the community. It measures liberals against social conservatives. It includes heavily white Christian, Asian and Latino parts of Hikind’s AD where he has never been strong, and it does not include areas of Borough Park and greater Flatbush where Hikind is the strongest political power”
Very well. I could dispute some of that. But it is least arguable.
In fact, I’ve argued some of it myself, explicitly leaving Hikind’s relatively weak 2010 general election showing (65.20%) out of my damning analysis of the state of things Democratic in Orthodox Brooklyn, precisely because so much of it was attributable to Hikind’s weakness among white Christians.
These factors and others are even why I am discounting, for the moment, the defeat of Hikind backed Joe Lazar in the 2010 Special Election City Council against David Greenfield.
In that race as a whole, Greenfield rampaged 7242 (57.18%) to 5087 (40.17%) even triumphing in Hikind’s AD by 3345 (51.31%) to 3075 (47.17%), but the anecdotal evidence was that Greenfield’s showing in Hikind’s district was an optical illusion.
While Greenfield did make some inroads into the Borough Park Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) vote, especially among younger voters, he got beaten there. Greenfield beat Hikind’s guy in Hikind’s turf by pulling Republicans and other non-Dems who could not vote in a normal primary, and was especially effective in pulling Catholics, Asians, Latinos, other non-Jews, non-Haredi Orthodox Jews , non-Orthodox Jews and liberal Yuppies, cobbling together a victory not normally possible in a primary.
But this year, we can finally test Hikind’s strength in his home base without any of these quibbles.
Hikind’s AD has now been redrawn. It now includes as much as Haredi Brooklyn as can fit in any one Assembly District, and includes virtually no one else.
Further, we get the opportunity to test Hikind’s strength in a larger election which includes most of Hikind’s strongest zone of main influence, (including some similar areas just outside Hikind’s new AD) in a primary featuring a Hikind backed Orthodox Jew (Charles Finkelstein), a non-Hikind backed Orthodox Jew (Steven “Schlomo” Mostofsky) and a non-Jewish Italian female who had the virtually unanimous local political backing (or at least friendly apathy) of the interested political leadership in the area’s non-Orthodox sectors (Theresa Ciccotto).
The race was the Democratic primary for a judgeship in Brooklyn’s Fifth Municipal Court District, which includes the entirety of southwest Brooklyn and some adjoining areas.
Truly we can now finally see the true dimensions of Dov Hikind’s much vaunted ability to deliver.
Further, since this election was taking place at a time when Hikind himself was facing a primary challenge, we can see Hikind tested at a time when his motivation to muster his troops was strongly personal.
To recap this year’s lay of the land, Hikind was being challenged for his Assembly seat by Mo Tischler, the brother of Abe Tischler, who was challenging Simcha Felder (a Greefield ally) for the Democratic nod to face off with Republican David Storobin for the new Super Jewish State Senate seat.
There have been, in recent years, two trends in the greater Borough Park political community.
One is a newfound militant social conservatism, the other is a revolt against the area’s institutional establishment. These trends sometimes work in tandem, but not always.
The loses in the community by David Weprin, Lew Fidler and Brad Lander's were ideological statements, but of those, only Lander's loss was also a revolt against the institutional establishment.
By contrast ,there was almost no discernable ideological difference between Joe Lazar and David Greenfield (and to the extent there was, it was Greenfield who was somewhat more socially liberal), and yet, Greenfield got an unexpectedly high Haredi vote largely as an expression of a non-ideologically based anti-establishment revolt by younger Haredim, who identified more with Greenfield than they did with the older establishment hack types embodied by Lazar.
The very young Tischler brothers, who have no discernable ideological difference with Hikind, Felder or Greenfield, see themselves as part of this movement. But they are just kids without a clue, who are little better than Mindy Meyer in pants.
In 2010, Abe Tischler emerged from out of nowhere to run in the special Council election. Hikind perceive Tischler's geography and religious affiliations as a potential annoyance to Lazar. Greenfield perceived Tischler's youth as an annoying distraction to his own anti-establishment narrative. Both sides challenged the Tischler petition and he was knocked off the ballot by the Board of Elections.
Tischler then went to court attempting to get back on the ballot, and only Greenfield pursued the challenge in that forum (successfully), resulting in a Tischler endorsement of Lazar.
This year, the Tischlers’ efforts to attach themselves to the new Borough Park zeitgeist fell flat. In fact, by challenging both sides, they forced them together, at least in the races the Tischlers were contesting (though admittedly, it is doubtful the Tischlers would have gotten any support from either side if they’d left the other alone).
David Greenfield surely wants to apply a mohel’s knife liberally to what is left of Dov Hikind’s political power, and possibly to Hikind himself, but he’ll do it in his own time, with his own guy (which may even be him).
Likewise, Hikind does not like Felder (or his backer, Greenfield), but has no use for young upstarts—Greenfield is young-upstart enough for him.
Not that Hikind will do anything for Felder where it really counts.
In an effort to help David Storobin, the Republicans and conservatives both offered Hikind their lines. The result would have sandwiched Storobin on the ballot in a sweet spot between Mitt Romney and Hikind.
If Hikind wanted to help Felder, he would have said no.
So, of course, he said yes.
In a spirit of magnanimity, Hikind agreed to allow both Felder and Storobin to circulate petitions for independent lines where each could also appear as his running mates.
Hikind is everyone’s friend, or more accurately, he is no one’s friend. As a result, no one is friends with him.
A source tells me that during the recent Judicial race a person thisclose to David Greenfield bumped into a person thisclose to Terri Ciccotto’s District Leader Joe Bova and they laughingly agreed that the important thing wasn’t who won—the important thing was beating Hikind.
Anyway, the Tischler family rolled snake eyes, at least as concerns their own elections.
In the race against Hikind, Mo pulled 15.64% to Hikind’s 83.72%.
In the race against Felder, Abe pulled 17.50% to Felder’s 81.49%.
More relevantly for this discussion, within Hikind’s AD, all but a tiny part of which is in the Senate District (the Senate district accounts for 91.79% of the Assembly District’s votes cast in this primary), Abe pulled 13.92% to Felder’s 85.73%.
While I’ve not done an ED by ED analysis, it appears that Felder is at least slightly stronger than Hikind in Hikind’s turf.
Outside the Hikind AD, Abe got 20.17% of the vote to Felder’s 78.33%, a total somewhat less than what I call the dead dog vote.
And yet, because they are a force of nature outside the normal operations of the Borough Park political world, the Tischler boys accidentally ended up becoming one of the most influential forces in this year’s Borough Park politics.
They disrupted everyone and everything.
Mo Tischler decided to challenge Hikind’s Republican and Conservative petitions. Even Tischler understood that Hikind's losing the lines wouldn’t help him beat Hikind in the Dem primary, but Tischler was harboring a two-fold delusional fantasy why this an important move:
1) When Tischler beats Hikind in the primary, Hikind won't be able to come after him in the general, and
2) In the unlikely event Tischler loses the primary to Hikind, it is better for Tischler if Hikind has fewer lines, when Mo comes back at him in November on the "School Choice" ticket.
And, much to probably even their own surprise, the Tischler boys knocked Hikind off both lines.
So who really benefitted?
Simcha Felder, who lost Hikind as a GOP & Conservative running mate to David Storobin.
Things then got worse for Storobin. The joint Hikind/Storobin independent petitions failed to emerge, but the joint Hikind/Felder petitions did.
The Felder/Greenfield operation then administered the final coup de grace. They qualified an Opportunity to Ballot petition, allowing a write in primary against Storobin for the Conservative nomination.
With Storobin’s name on the ballot, Felder still managed to beat him, 113 to 98. However, the results when broken by AD are instructive.
Outside Hikind’s AD, Storobin won 71 (81.61%) to 16 (18.395).
In the 48th, Felder won 97 (78.23%) to 27 (21.77%).
It seems quite clear that the Greenfield/Felder operation probably succeeded in registering a significant number of new Conservatives just in time for the primary.
I should note that Felder/Greenfield alliance was not entirely pleased with results of the Tischler petition challenges.
As collateral damage from the Tischler challenge to the Hikind petitions, Mostofsky also lost the GOP line. Mostofsky had a credible backup plan if he lost the primary, which was to run in the general sandwiched with the likes of Romney, Hikind and Marty Golden on the R&C lines. Without the GOP line, this was no longer possible.
But in the end, the candidate for Judge the Tischlers most hurt was Terri Ciccotto.
The Ciccotto hope was that with a divided Orthodox vote, she could ride the non-Jewish vote to victory.
The problem was there was nothing else bringing out the non-Orthodox vote.
In the entirety of the district outside the Hikind and Felder areas, the only contest on the ballot was a race for Female Member of the Democratic State Committee in AD 52 which affected four tiny EDs in the South Slope. Magnifying that race’s insignificance, the challenger had dropped out of the race too late to get her name off the ballot and the incumbent was focusing her efforts in the overlapping areas of a different Municipal Court District. In the end, the 52nd accounted for 23 votes in the Judicial primary.
But, thanks entirely to the Tischler boys, two of the three biggest political names in Orthodox Brooklyn were on the ballot and running full-bore operations.
So, the Orthodox vote came out in full force.
Ultimately Steve Mostofsky won, but if success had more than one father, the Tischler boys were joined at the bris (truly a “Simcha”) by David Greenfield, who proved once and for all that it was he, and not Dov Hikind, was Orthodox Brooklyn’s Gezunt Schvinging Circumcised Schvantz, with poor wittle Dov exposed as a tiny impotent schmendrick.
The final vote was Mostofsky 3824 (45.96%), Ciccotto 2925 (35.15%) and poor Charlie Finkelstein 1519 (18.26%).
This, by itself, was a humiliation for Dov Hikind, but it does not convey the true dimensions of what actually occurred.
In Hikind’s home AD the vote was Mostofsky 2104 (73.36%), Finkelstein 612 (21.34%) and Ciccotto 138 (4.81%).
In Dov Hikind’s home base, his handpicked candidate for Judge could barely manage a showing better than the Tischler-pishers.
Further, wherever there were Orthodox Jews, even in small number, or indeed Jews of any kind, Mostofsky beat Finkelstein.
AD 44’s part of the 5th included not only Yuppie/Irish Windsor Terrace, but a small mixed area of Borough Park (most of which had, at some point, been represented by Hikind), where the vote was mostly Orthodox , and a vast swath Kensington (much of which had also once been represented by Hikind) where Orthodox Jews were probably the second largest voting bloc, with the first being Russian Jews (among whom Hikind was also alleged to have some influence), with the balance of the vote being split by Yuppies, non-Orthodox Jews, South Asians, Albanians, Italians, Latinos Poles and others.
In the 44th , Mostofsky got 778 votes (44.76%), Ciccotto 604 (34.75%) and Finkelstein only 346 (19.91%).
In the district’s 47th AD portion, the single largest bloc of votes were Russian Jews, with Italians, Asians, and other Jews, both Orthodox and not, also having some sway.
In the 47th, Mostofsky got 422 votes (49.76%), Ciccotto 302 (35.61%) and Finkelstein only 116 (13.68%).
The 49th AD was Ciccotto’s political base. Much of it consists of areas of Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst where Italians mix with Asians; other portions consist of parts of Sunset Park where Asians mix with Latinos.
However, the district also contains a few small areas of Borough Park (some previously represented by Hikind) where Asians mix with Orthodox Jews.
The 49th AD results were Ciccotto 430 (62.32%), Mostofsky 130 (18.84%) and Finkelstein 125 (18.12%).
The district’s 51st AD portion consists mostly of pieces of Sunset Park (and tiny slices of Bay Ridge and the South Slope). It is mostly Latino, with some Asians, Yuppies, Arabs and old time white ethnics.
However, it also contains a small mixed slice of Borough Park (some of which was once represented by Hikind) where Latinos mix with Orthodox Jews and Asians.
In the district’s 51st AD portion, Ciccotto got 606 votes (56.37%), Mostofsky 263 (24.47%) and Finkelstein 194 (18.05%).
Only in the three ADs (46, 52, & 64) where Orthodox Jews were a negligible factor (at least in those ADs’ 5th Municipal Court District overlap) were Finkelstein and Mostofsky at equal strength.
The combined vote in the ADs where the Hikind/Greenfield rivalry played zero role in the proceedings was Ciccotto 845 (76.68%), Mostofsky 127 (11.52%) and Finkelstein 126 (11.43%).
I do not want to exaggerate David Greenfield’s strength. He cannot put in what G-d left out. In a race where a factor like social issues become a wedge, he cannot deliver victory for a candidate like Lew Fidler, who is perceived as a social liberal.
But, as we saw with the Lander race, neither could Dov Hikind, even though, unlike Lew Fidler, Lander had the institutional support of the local establishment behind him.
What I am saying is that when it comes to an ability to deliver in the Orthodox Jewish community, Dov Hikind is a myth.
When it comes to which Orthodox Jewish political power in Brooklyn can really deliver, the kingmaker is now David Greenfield.