By Manny Behar
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions in this article are those of the author’s alone; the Queens Jewish Link does not endorse political candidates.
The time has come. Early voting in this year’s Primary will begin on Sunday (Saturday, but we do not want anyone to vote on Shabbos) and will continue through June 20. Primary Day is Tuesday, June 22.
This year’s Primary features both longtime friends of our community and candidates from the anti-Israel, progressive, woke left. The new ranked-choice voting system gives us the opportunity to vote for our first choice and to ensure the defeat of those who are hostile to the interests of our community.
You can check if you are able to vote in the Primary online at www.vote.nyc/page/am-i-registered or by phone at 1-866-868-3692.
You can vote early, in person, between June 13 and June 20 or on Primary Day, June 22, at your usual polling place between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. To find your early voting location and hours, or your poll site on Primary Day, go to findmypollsite.vote.nyc.
To vote by absentee ballot, go to www.vote.nyc/page/absentee-voting-0.
Under the ranked-choice voting system, you can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. The first-choice votes are counted. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the candidate who finishes last is eliminated. The votes are reallocated to the next choice of his/her voters. This continues until there are two candidates left. Whoever wins the last round wins the Primary. Figuring out the complications of how the votes are counted is not important. What is critical to understand is that if you only vote for your first choice and he/she falls short, your vote will not be counted in the next round. That means you are actually helping the candidate you most want to defeat.
Let’s use an example with historic figures. Imagine a four-way election between David HaMelech, Abraham Lincoln, Hillary Clinton, and Adolf Hitler. David HaMelech would be our first choice. Hitler is the one we need to defeat. If you only vote for David HaMelech and he finishes fourth, your vote will not count. You would be helping to elect Hitler. To be effective, you need to rank Abraham Lincoln, a fine public servant, second. You even need to rank Hillary Clinton third, just to make sure that Hitler does not win.
Do not complain about how the system is too complicated or unfair; this is the way the system works, and we need to use it to our advantage.
Unfortunately, the anti-Israel progressive left is going all out to gain power. This election is as much about whom we need to defeat as whom we want to elect. Others may rank the candidates differently than I do. Feel free to rank the candidates in any order you wish. The important thing is that you need to rank all the candidates I am listing to make sure that we defeat those who are the most hostile to the needs of our community.
With that in mind, here are my assessments of the upcoming races.
Three candidates are unacceptable. Diane Morales has called Israel an apartheid state. Maya Wiley favorably retweeted Bernie Sanders calling Benjamin Netanyahu a racist and saying, “We can’t ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.” She is endorsed by AOC. I have known Comptroller Scott Stringer since he was in high school and long looked forward to helping on his campaign for Mayor. Unfortunately, he has completely sold out to the progressive left. Most notably, he helped Jamaal Bowman, who defeated Eliot Engel, the pro-Israel Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and then joined the notorious AOC-led “Squad.”
Three candidates – Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Ray McGuire, and Andrew Yang – made strong statements in support of Israel during the recent fighting against Hamas and have taken strong stands in favor of law enforcement. McGuire’s campaign does not seem to have generated much support. Support for Yang, the one-time frontrunner, seems to be slipping. This seems to leave Adams as the most viable candidate among the three.
Kathryn Garcia has reached out to our community. She made a parve statement during the recent troubles in Israel, saying, “clearly the State of Israel needs to exist, but this escalation of violence is incredibly sad to see.” Garcia has expressed her strong opposition to BDS. Shaun Donovan may well be the best qualified candidate, having served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. He does not seem to have generated much support.
My recommendations for Mayor:
1 - Eric Adams
2 - Andrew Yang
3 - Ray McGuire
4 - Kathryn Garcia
5 - Shaun Donovan
My fellow Yeshiva High School of Queens graduate Assemblyman David Weprin is the best qualified candidate to manage the city’s finances. He was Chair of the New York City Council Finance Committee, where he played a major role in balancing eight straight budgets, and was Deputy Superintendent of Banking for New York State. We worked closely together when I was Special Assistant to the New York City Council Speaker to secure millions of dollars in funding for Jewish institutions.
The most dangerous candidate in this race is Councilmember Brad Lander, who constantly accuses Israel of “violating Palestinian rights.” To make matters worse, he uses Yiddishisms and invokes his Jewish identity in doing so. He is a leading supporter of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the Jewish Vote, organizations whose basic purpose is to give a hashgachah to anti-Israel candidates and to create the impression that American Jews support the Palestinian cause.
Our best bet for defeating Lander is City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a staunch supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. Speaker Johnson launched an initiative to provide funding for organizations that assist Holocaust survivors, including the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, the Queens Jewish Community Council, and Commonpoint Queens.
State Senator Brian Benjamin refused to answer the DSA questionnaire about supporting BDS, saying he had “a marvelous learning experience when visiting Israel.” Zach Iscol is a former Marine whose experience in Iraq gives him perspective on the situation in the Middle East. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera ran a spirited primary challenge to AOC last year.
1 - David Weprin
2 - Corey Johnson
3 - Brian Benjamin
4 - Zach Iscol
5 - Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
Queens Borough President
In a three-way race, the clear wrong choice is Councilmember James Van Bramer. He boasts of endorsements from the stars of the anti-Israel woke left, including pro-Palestinian State Senator Jessica Ramos, BDS-supporting Assemblyman Ron Kim, Brad Lander, and Dianne Morales.
We are fortunate to have two good candidates in the race. My choice is Borough President Donovan Richards. He has organized rallies to protest anti-Semitic and anti-Asian hate crimes and is a strong supporter of Israel. His mentor was the late Borough President Claire Shulman, considered by many to be the greatest Borough President in Queens history. In just a short time in office, he has shown leadership in securing funding for Jewish institutions. As a former Chair of the City Council Public Safety Committee, he has a strong working relationship with the NYPD.
Many people in our community support former Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who has a strong record of supporting the NYPD and the needs of the Jewish community. The important thing in this race is to be sure to rank both Richards and Crowley.
My recommendations for Queens Borough President:
1 - Donovan Richards
2 - Elizabeth Crowley
City Council District 23
The dangerous candidate in this district is Jaslin Kaur, who is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and AOC. I have not had the opportunity to evaluate all the candidates and hesitate to rank my recommendations. Debra Markel is a personal friend but has not generated much support in past runs. Steve Behar (who is not related to me), Linda Lee, and Harpreet Toor are all supported by people in the district whose opinions I respect.
My recommendation for City Council
Rank: Linda Lee, Steve Behar,
Debra Markeel, Harpreet Toor
City Council District 24
The contrast in this race could not be clearer. Councilmember James Gennaro is an outstanding spokesman for the needs of the central Queens community. He has organized rallies to support Israel. Gennaro deserves our complete support.
One of his opponents, Moumita Ahmed, tweeted a picture of a baby with bullet holes in its head and a red ribbon with a Magen David wrapped around it and the caption: “Israel’s gift to the world: orphaned children, bombs, killing. Please boycott Israel.”
My recommendation for City Council District 24:
1 - James Gennaro
City Council District 29
Last week, Shabsie Saphirstein and I moderated a forum for City and Council candidates in this district. Eight of the nine participated. The one exception was Aleda Gagarin, whose husband Mel ran against Grace Meng in last year’s Congressional Primary. Aleda has tweeted that she joined the Democratic Socialists of America because of their “history of standing with oppressed peoples including but certainly not limited to Palestinians.” Gagarin is endorsed by AOC and the misleadingly-named Jewish Vote, which is actually a pro-Palestinian organization. There is plenty of room to argue over which of the eight other candidates is best. But there is no question that Aleda Gagarin by far the worst and someone we need to work and vote against.
Of the other candidates, Avi Cyperstein is a young man who has already built a long track record of service to our community as a Hatzalah volunteer and founder of Queens Chaverim. David Aronov fought against BDS as a student at Hunter College and NYU Graduate School. Lynn Schulman’s support from the Queens County Democratic Organization and labor unions make her a candidate well positioned to defeat Gagarin. Eliseo Labayen, Douglas Shapiro, Edwin Wong, and Donghui Zang all show great promise and I look forward to seeing them play an important role in local politics in the future.
If you missed last week’s forum, I strongly urge you to go to qjcc.org/forum to hear from the candidates directly and make your own decision. I will have more about this race next week.
My recommendation for City Council District 29:
1 - Avi Cyperstein
2 - Lynn Schulman
3 - David Aronov
Choose from Eliseo Labayen, Douglas Shapiro, Edwin Wong, and Donghui Zang
City Council District 30
Councilmember Robert Holden, a good friend of our community and a strong supporter of the NYPD, is being challenged by Juan Ardila.
My recommendation for City Council District 30:
1 - Robert Holden