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By: Sari Setton, Executive Director, Scf

An Urgent Message
from the Sephardic Community Federation

Recently, Chaskel Bennett, co-founder of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition (FJCC) wrote a powerful Op-Ed article titled “Orthodox Jews are Empowering AOC.” In explaining the diminished influence of Orthodox Jews in politics he states, “Like it or not, Orthodox Jews are doing this to themselves by registering as Republicans in New York City and disqualifying themselves from voting in the Democratic primaries. Today, the big political battle in New York is no longer between Democrats and Republicans. Instead it is the fight between moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party.” The SCF wholeheartedly agrees.

For over 15 years the SCF has built meaningful relationships with local and state elected politicians to empower our community, ensuring that our vital institutions are recognized and supported. As the city and state continue a leftward tilt, it is clear that the community needs the ability to vote in the Democratic primaries. This will influence which Democrats run in the November elections. Strengthening our voting numbers in these primaries greatly encourages candidates to support issues vital to our community. The stark choice these days
is between a moderate Democrat versus a progressive one.
Since many community members are registered as Republicans
or Independents, they are excluded from voting in the
Democratic primaries.

Virtually all of the competitive elections in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and recently, Queens, are decided by Democratic Party primary elections held in June of each year. The Governor, State Senate Majority, State Assembly Majority, Attorney General, Comptroller, Mayor, City Comptroller, every borough District Attorney, NYC Public Advocate, as well as four out of five Borough Presidents, and 48 of 51 New York City Council members, are all Democrats.

Recent New York City mid-term elections were crucial to our community. Progressive Democrats, feeling empowered by a handful of high profile victories, have now thrown their weight behind any progressive trying to unseat moderate democratic incumbents. Here is a case in point. In an all “too close for comfort” primary for Queens District Attorney held in June (settled in August), Tiffany Caban was heavily backed by progressive Democrats. In line with her “progressive” agenda, she conveyed reluctance to prosecute anyone other than those committing the most serious crimes. Only after recounts and protests, she conceded defeat to Melinda Katz, with a loss by only 55 votes – showing clearly that every single vote counts – as 90,000 votes were cast in that race. A victory for Caban would have given the progressive left a stronghold in that borough.

The SCF is urging community members who have not yet registered to register as Democrats, and for those who are registered Independents or Republicans, to change their voter registration to that of “Democrat.” Only after one year may someone who has changed political parties vote in a primary election for his or her newly chosen party affiliation. Making the switch now would render one eligible to help elect candidates who support our community interests. Of course, in the general election, regardless of one's party affiliation, he or she may vote for the candidate of their choice.

Registering as a Democrat or switching party registration is not a moral designation. It just gives one the ability to elect a candidate who can win and can thereby help our community. We want to make it very clear that this is not an argument to support Democrats over Republicans. We simply need to ensure that the moderate Democrats have our community’s full support, and are not driven out by radicals. Political party registration, along with voting, is a critically important practical and tactical tool that permits us to have a voice in every aspect of the political process.

If you are not a registered Democrat and want to change your party registration or to register to vote for the first time, please visit: https://voterreg.dmv.ny.gov/MotorVoter/