Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

The effort to keep Rep. Grace Meng in her central Queens seat delivered a resounding victory for the four-term Congresswoman, with nearly two-thirds of the vote as of Tuesday night in her favor. The remainder was divided between Mel Gagarin and Sandra Choi. For the Queens Jewish community, turnout was key in the wide margin of victory that sent a message of support for Israel against a politically inexperienced challenger whose tweets demonstrated hostility towards the Jewish state.

The margin of victory and the results described below are subject to change as the absentee ballots are being counted in the days following the printing of this paper. With the coronavirus pandemic, this election has the largest number of absentee ballots ever submitted to the city Board of Elections.

Gagarin sought to replicate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s path to Washington, the story of a young leftist insurgent defeating a moderate incumbent. In her run for a second term, AOC won easily against Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who had a sizable campaign account but little recognition in the district covering western Queens and eastern Bronx.

Another race in the Bronx that was in the media spotlight concerns the center of that borough, an open seat in retiring Rep. Jose Serrano’s district, where social conservative Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. enjoyed name recognition and a loyal following but was trailing his colleague Ritchie Torres, young and openly gay, with a more progressive voting record, who also has a positive relationship with pro-Israel organizations.

Farther north, longtime Rep. Eliot Engel was in the most competitive primary of his career against leftist former school principal Jamaal Bowman. The changing demographics of the district, newly registered progressive voters, and his gaffe at a Black Lives Matter rally in the Bronx appear to have cost Engel his job in an upset similar to that of AOC. First elected in 1989, his seniority put him in charge of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, an important forum for funding and legislation concerning Israel and the war against terrorism.

In Brooklyn, Councilman Chaim Deutsch ran as a conservative Democrat, proudly holding up his endorsement by the police union in his effort to oust incumbent Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. Deutsch sought to raise the turnout among Orthodox voters in Midwood and Flatbush, along with Chabad voters in Crown Heights. The presence of two other black progressives in the race could have delivered the district to Deutsch, but Clarke’s followers remembered to vote for the seven-term incumbent in this closely-watched race.

Another crowded primary race was for Queens Borough President, with Councilman Donovan Richards having the nod of the county party leadership, along with momentum from his participation in Black Lives Matter protests and proposals to reform the city’s police department. At the same time, he also is well-regarded among Jewish voters for delivering services to his Orthodox constituents in Far Rockaway, condemning anti-Semitism, and supporting Israel. But the nod of county leaders is not the coronation it used to be.

Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley also has name recognition across Queens. After losing her Middle Village seat in 2017, she remained active on the political scene, promoting a vision of economic growth for the borough. As of Tuesday evening, Richards is ahead of Crowley by a few thousand votes.

Assemblyman David Weprin is also in the lead against Mahfuzul Islam, who argued that the incumbent wasn’t progressive enough, based on the support of the police union and landlords. Some of Weprin’s voters actually appreciate enforcement instead of seemingly uncontrollable protests.

The leftist slate of top-ballot candidates also includes supporters running for judgeships and district leader posts. With the reelection of Grace Meng, it also means that Morton and Sandra Povman will retain their positions as District Leaders in Kew Gardens Hills, having kept their seats against Gagarin supporters who sought to transform the party at every level.

By Sergey Kadinsky