BY MOSHE HILL OPINION COLUMNS AUGUST 23 2023
With four indictments, a packed debate stage, investigations into shady dealings, and the leadership of the free world in the balance, it’s not surprising that much of the national focus is on 2024. By the time next November rolls around, Americans will likely be deciding between one candidate in a jail cell and the other in a hospice. Well before that happens, though, there are elections remaining this year, which have a profound impact on New Yorkers’ day-to-day life.
A special election is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, to replace retiring Democratic Queens Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal. The 27th Assembly District, encompassing Queens’ Flushing, Kew Gardens Hills, Whitestone, and College Point neighborhoods, is heavily Orthodox Jewish and Asian-American. Sam Berger, 25, the Democratic nominee, has strong backing from district leaders due to his familial ties and recent graduation from St. John’s University School of Law. Berger received Rosenthal’s endorsement upon his nomination.
On the Republican side, Dovid (David) Hirsch, 34, is seeking to flip the seat to the GOP. Hirsch is a political consultant with a focus on defending Orthodox interests, particularly regarding yeshivos and crime. The district has shifted towards more conservative stances in recent years, and Hirsch believes electing a Republican will send a message to the Democratic Party.
With both of the candidates being Orthodox Jewish, this vote will be about party affiliation as much as anything else. Orthodox areas of New York City and the surrounding suburbs have trended more Republican in the past few years, considering the Democratic Party’s penchant for siding with woke causes. These causes often conflict with religious adherence, with many cases going before the courts so people can simply exercise their religion as they see fit.
This is how Republicans gained several seats in the New York City Council in 2021, seats that are also up for reelection this November. While Republicans hold a mere six seats of the 51-seat council, several of those seats are in areas of religious affiliation.
In Queens, Councilwomen Vickie Paladino and Joann Ariola are defending against Democratic challengers. Tony Avella, in a rematch from the 2021 election, is taking on Paladino, while Ariola’s challenger Mike Scalla dropped out, leaving her election uncontested for now. For the Kew Gardens Hills community in the 24th District, incumbent Democrat James Gennaro is running for reelection, challenged by Jonathan David Rinaldi, a 44-year-old from Forest Hills. Next door, the 29th District has Democrat Lynn Schulman defending her seat from Danniel Maio.
There is a general lack of enthusiasm for participation in these races, likely due to the overwhelming majority that the Democrats have in the City Council. The Republican Party cannot fundraise for these candidates, nor do they have a contested and rigorous nomination process. This has allowed the Democrats to elect more and more radical members to the City Council, which has led to the further degradation of the city itself.
Out in the suburbs, the Nassau County Legislature is having its first election since redistricting after the 2020 census. The Republican-majority Legislature is looking to stay Republican, while Democrats are trying to take advantage of the new lines. Out in West Hempstead, the Jewish community will be losing Legislator John Giuffre (Republican), who was integral in getting a much-needed crosswalk in front of the Young Israel of West Hempstead, as he has been redistricted out. Republican Bill Gaylor, a ten-year veteran of the Legislature, has been redistricted into the area and will be running as the incumbent. Jake Scheiner, a former AIPAC employee and staffer for Congressman Tom Suozzi, is challenging Gaylor.
All of this might be moot, however, as there are several lawsuits challenging the redistricting. The Nassau County Democratic Committee, along with 20 registered voters, has filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the new district lines for the county legislature. The lawsuit asserts that the map, created by the Republican-controlled legislature, is biased in favor of Republican candidates, restricts competition, and weakens the voting influence of communities of color. The complaint seeks to declare the 2023 district map unconstitutional, halt elections under the map by the Board of Elections, and allow for the creation of new maps. The Democrats claim that the Republicans are using gerrymandering to maintain their political power. The lawsuit comes shortly before the upcoming elections and follows contentious redistricting proceedings that were marked by partisan division. Republicans maintain that the new map adheres to legal voting standards.
Needless to say, there is no need to wait until 15 months from now to scratch that voting itch. There are plenty of elections between now and then, and options other than octogenarians. So, to anyone who has not registered to vote, register. Anyone who will be unavailable on any of these election days, get an absentee ballot. Sitting out an election is not something anyone can afford. With each passing year, as New York State and the federal government try to take more control, the stakes for local control get higher. Make sure everyone in your family votes at every opportunity.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.
Author’s Note: If you need help registering or getting an absentee ballot, email me at aHillwithaView@gmail.com, and I will be happy to help you out.