Party identity key to Assembly battle in five cities

Ari Brown (L) and David Lobl

By Reuvain Borchardt

Two Orthodox Jewish candidates who describe themselves as politically conservative face off in a special election in Nassau County next week, in a race that has largely come down to a battle over party affiliation rather than candidate policies.

Republican Ari (Eric) Brown, 54, takes on Democrat David Lobl, 37, for the 20th Assembly seat, which covers the western tip of Nassau County, including the five cities and Long Beach, and is vacated after Republican MP Melissa “Missy” Miller resigned in February to take up a position on the Hempstead City Council.

Lobl, a Chicago native who lived for years in Far Rockaway before moving to Cedarhurst just over a year ago, is in his first political race, despite having a career in politics: first for the public relations firm Friedlander Group; then lobbying for Human Care Services, an organization that works with people with intellectual disabilities; as a Jewish liaison in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration from 2012 to 2018; followed by a stint at the Kasirer lobbying firm; and more recently as an independent consultant. Along the way, he worked on several political campaigns, including the unsuccessful congressional bids of Democrats David Weprin in 2011 and Adam Schleifer in 2020.

Brown, a lifer from Long Island who has lived in Cedarhurst for 30 years, has served in local political office for more than two decades, including serving as Cedarhurst administrator since 2001 and deputy mayor since 2019. His daily job owns of a residential construction company, and this is his first statewide political race.

Both candidates agree that increasing crime is a top priority for the state government and talk about supporting law enforcement and rolling back the state’s 2019 bail reform.

The new bail laws have “transferred free-range killers, drug dealers, gang members and other dangerous criminals into our communities,” Brown said.

“If people do bad things, they need to be held accountable,” Lobl says. “We can’t have a situation where you attack a Jew and then you’re just released within five hours and you can do it again. It’s not good.

The candidates also share an interest in issues of school choice and private school funding, that the government should not dictate a curriculum for private schools, and in maintaining the district’s suburban nature.

In fact, the candidates themselves, during interviews with Hamodia, were unable to name specific issues on which they differ. (Hamodia eventually found two: Lobl supports “responsible gun control,” while Brown is a member of the NRA; and Lobl has said he would consider supporting a universal health care law, which Brown opposes. Additionally, Brown is a Trump supporter, while Lobl refuses to say who he voted for in the presidential election.)

A considerable part of the rhetoric in the race boils down to whether the district would be better represented by a Democrat or a Republican.

In the New York State Legislature, “whether we like it or not,” Lobl says, caucusing with Democrats is “the only way to get things done.”

Noting that the Democrats have a supermajority of more than 100 of the 150 seats in the House, Lobl says, “If you want your voice to be heard, if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be able to have one abilities that a member of the majority does, you have to be a democrat.

“What many voters may not realize,” says Daniel Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jewish Democratic Assemblyman from Central Queens who supports Lobl, “is that in the New State Legislature York—unlike, say, the New York City Council or Congress—minority members are powerless.Even if you generally agree with Republican policies more than Democratic policies, you will hardly be represented in the Legislature if you vote Republican.The Jewish community of Five Towns is one of the largest Jewish communities in the state, but in order for them to have a voice in Albany, they must have a representative in the majority.

Brown disputes the idea that a Democratic nominee would be an advantage for the district.

“If a Jew votes for ‘a progressive program,’ Brown says, “he’ll lose his base, that’s the fruit people. And if he accepts what his base wants, [the majority] don’t give him $1.

Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County Republican executive backing Brown, also considers the idea that a Democrat would have more influence to be “nonsense.”

“Do you think a Democratic member of the Assembly will have a voice with these progressive, socialist, woke lawmakers in Albany? It’s not going to happen,” Blakeman said at a campaign event with Brown. “Look what happened to Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Democrat – he represents 8 million people, he went to Albany to talk about bail reform, they closed the door on him. What do you think they are going to do to a member of the Democratic Assembly from this region? »

In response to this argument by Blakeman, an orthodox Democratic political strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity said Hamodia“Every vote counts in the Assembly Democrat conference. If you had more moderates, then more moderates would get their way, so within the conference there is value in getting more moderates. I’ll point out Simcha Eichenstein and Daniel Rosenthal as two good examples of moderate Orthodox Jewish Democrats who accomplished a lot in Albany.

Michael Fragin, senior adviser to the chairman of the New York State Republican Party and administrator and fire marshal for Lawrence, said: “Some people who don’t understand the ways of Albany have this idea that we’re going to elect a Democrat in the majority, and millions of dollars will start raining down on our district… That’s nonsense. Absurdity. We’ve had Democrats in that very seat for decades… and there’s never been millions of dollars coming into the five cities from any of them.

Brown also argues that Nassau County and the town of Hempstead have been huge sources of funding for Cedarhurst, and that if the district were to vote for a Democratic congressman, even though it would therefore get more funds from Albany, ” They will alienate the Republican Party”, which is a force in Nassau, and thus “cut off all other possible sources from all Republican sources”.

Additionally, Brown argues that it’s important to side with the Republicans because the Democratic Party in general hasn’t spoken out enough against anti-Semitism within its party, and that “as a Jew, we have a responsibility not to side with our enemies”.

Lobl, on the other hand, argues, “I think it takes a lot of courage to stand up to your own party. And I think in January there could very well be up to six fruit Democratic Members of the National Assembly. And when you have six members, we might provide coverage for other moderated members. And when we draw a line in the sand, it’s very different from when a [Republican] member, or the entire Republican caucus, draws a line in the sand. You can’t ignore us.

The district has a Democratic registration advantage of about 5,000 voters, although it voted for Republican Donald Trump by six points in 2020. Miller, its last occupant, was a Republican, but the seat was also filled by several Democrats in recent years.

Rabbi Baruch Rothman, a political activist, says the district’s support for Trump is not surprising given his popularity in the Orthodox community and he doesn’t think Orthodox people will necessarily vote for Brown in the same proportions.

“I hope our community realizes that this is not about partisan politics and this is not about Ari or David, this is about a voice in the majority,” Rothman said. “If you want results, you have to be in the room, and [in Albany] the Republicans are just not in the room.

Fragin comments wryly, “I guess all those people endorsing Lobl by that theory will therefore be voting Republican in congressional elections this year in anticipation of the GOP takeover of Congress.”

The Orthodox Democratic political strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity said Hamodia that if he backs Lobl, he thinks Brown is the frontrunner in the race: “Long Island has been a fashionable Republican, and the fact is that the Republicans now control all the locals. [government] and this gives them influence in the political process, even exerting pressure on the community to vote for their candidate. Also, Lobl is very closely associated with Cuomo, which is negative in the Jewish community. »

Republican Fragin agrees: “David Lobl has to overcome a massive Democratic Party brand deficit, in addition to being new to the district.”

Lobl says voters shouldn’t consider broader issues of national politics or past political jobs when considering who to vote for.

“This election isn’t about Joe Biden. It’s not about Andrew Cuomo. It’s not about Bruce Blakeman. It’s about David Lobl and Ari Brown.

The unnamed Democratic political strategist said the special election being held on a Thursday is “very rare” and may affect the number of voters who cast their ballots.

“It will ultimately depend on turnout,” he says, “and that’s hard to predict.”

The special election will take place on April 7. Early voting has already started.

Whoever wins the special election won’t have much time to celebrate. Voting has already begun for the next regular elections, with primaries in June and general elections in November.

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