By Michael Gormley and Raanan Geberer
Associated Press / Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Democratic State Senator-elect Simcha Felder’s announcement on Tuesday that he would sit with the Republicans on Tuesday was not a surprise to many observers of the Brooklyn political scene.
Felder, who represents heavily Orthodox Jewish Borough Park and Midwood, issued a statement after meeting with Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos. Felder won the 17th Senate District over a Republican incumbent, David Storbin, in the heavily Democratic district. Felder had made it clear in closing weeks of the campaign that he might sit with Republicans if they could better serve his constituents.
"Earlier today, I met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos," Felder said in a statement on Tuesday. "We discussed the issues that concern my constituents. By joining him and the Senate Majority Conference I will be able to serve the people who elected me, and advance a legislative agenda that best meets their needs."
During this year’s presidential campaign, Felder supported Mitt Romney, applauded Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, and urged his constituents to vote on the Conservative Party line, where they could vote for both him and Romney.
As early as September, the New York Post quoted “insiders” as saying that Felder was “hammering a deal to caucus with the Republicans if elected.” The same Post article quoted a “top borough Republican” who said, commenting on the Felder-GOP candidate David Storobin race, that “either way, we win.”
"Mr. Felder has shared with me the issues that are most important to his constituents, including economic development and job creation, reducing taxes and providing financial relief for hardworking families," Senate Republican leader Skelos said. "Senator-elect Felder will be a valuable member of our conference as we work to address the concerns raised by his community and continue to move this state forward."
The situation is somewhat reminiscent of the 2008 revolt in the state Senate by the self-described “four amigos” who refused to back the Democratic nominee to head the chamber. One of the four was Carl Kruger, long considered one of the most conservative Democrats in Albany, who is now in prison after being convicted of bribery charges.
Frank Seddio, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, wrote in an email, “Senator-Elect Simcha Felder's announcement that he plans to caucus with Republicans is both a disgrace and a complete betrayal of his constituents. If voters of Felder wanted someone to pursue Republican interests they would have voted for David Storobin - which also means Felder's entire campaign was a lie.”
Brooklyn’s Republican leader, Craig Eaton, didn’t return calls on Wednesday. Neither did Storobin, a Russian-American attorney with the firm of Storobin & Spodek.
The Democratic conference in the Senate is still counting on most Democrats unifying before a majority is chosen after Jan. 1.