Jews Loved Bloomberg, But Most Backed His Strongest Critic

De Blasio Wins 38% of Jewish Vote in City's Primary

Backing the Anti-Bloomberg: A plurality of 38% of Jewish Democrats voted for Bill de Blasio, shown here in Brooklyn celebrating  his victory in New York City’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary.
getty images
Backing the Anti-Bloomberg: A plurality of 38% of Jewish Democrats voted for Bill de Blasio, shown here in Brooklyn celebrating his victory in New York City’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published September 11, 2013, issue of September 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish Democrats in New York City love Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but a plurality backed his strongest critic.

Exit polls show that Jews rejected Bloomberg’s perceived successor in the recent primary election, joining instead with city Democrats to back Bill de Blasio, the candidate who assailed economic inequality as he railed against the three-term mayor.

Jewish voters’ rejection of Christine Quinn, the Democratic hopeful closest to Bloomberg, came even as polls continued to show the mayor enjoying high approval ratings among Jews. Yet very few of the Jewish Democrats who turned out on September 10 voted for Quinn.

According to the citywide exit poll from Edison Research, a plurality of 38% of Jews voted for de Blasio; just 19% voted for Quinn.

The show of force by Jewish liberals could signal a shift in priorities for the city’s Jewish Democrats, many of whom have supported Bloomberg, a Republican, in recent elections. Yet some experts expect Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota to pull heavy Jewish support in the general election.

“Quinn and anybody attached to the Bloomberg legacy is a victim of Bloomberg’s success, because he’s done so well for this city and this city is in such good place,” said Michael Tobman, a Democratic political consultant, explaining de Blasio’s appeal to liberals. “I believe voters are of the opinion that it can’t be unwound.”

De Blasio received slightly more than 40% of the primary vote, seemingly enough to push him over the threshold that would allow him to skip a runoff election. Recounts and paper ballots could still bring down that percentage, forcing a runoff October 1 between de Blasio and Bill Thompson, the former New York City comptroller, who came in second. The general election will take place November 5.

Turnout in the Democratic primary was low, and the Jewish neighborhood in which de Blasio appears to have done best is Manhattan’s staunchly liberal — and relatively affluent — Upper West Side. The de Blasio tide there bucked a push from many of the district’s prominent Jewish activists on behalf of Quinn, whose Upper West Side supporters included Ruth Messinger, the former Democratic mayoral candidate and current leader of American Jewish World Service.

“I think that the Jews who did not vote for de Blasio are going to vote for Lhota in the fall,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a conservative Democratic political consultant. “And there’s a lot of them.”

During his tenure, Bloomberg, a Jewish billionaire who was first elected mayor in 2001 with roughly half the Jewish vote, emphasized public health, public safety and livability initiatives. Crime levels continued to drop drastically, smoking was banned in city restaurants, and new parks funded by public-private partnerships opened along waterfronts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Income inequality, however, grew under Bloomberg, and conflagrations like the Occupy Wall Street protest tagged the economic gap to the billionaire mayor. Yet in interviews, the issue of income inequality was one Bloomberg himself largely dismissed.

Jewish voters in New York continue to like Bloomberg far more than the general public. According to an NBC 4 NY/WSJ/Marist Poll released September 9, 64% of New York City Jewish voters think Bloomberg is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, compared with 45% of registered voters overall.

Jews are “substantially more satisfied with the performance of the mayor, no doubt about that,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll. “Even for a smaller group, that’s a fairly wide disparity.”

Those positive feelings toward Bloomberg, however, didn’t translate to support for Quinn on primary day.

While the Marist Poll had Quinn and de Blasio closely matched among Jews just days before the election, exit polls showed that Jews heavily favored de Blasio. Even Thompson outperformed Quinn among Jews, with 23% of the Jewish vote.

In the end, Quinn’s failure to attract Jewish fans of Bloomberg may have come from her effort to carefully calibrate some distance between herself and the mayor during the campaign on controversial issues, like stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave for workers.

Messinger, who lost her own mayoral bid to Rudolph Giuliani in 1997, said Democrats who liked Bloomberg felt as though there was no one for them to vote for. “People who really liked Bloomberg and the Bloomberg years didn’t really see anybody as his successor,” Messinger said.

Bloomberg received 75% of the Jewish vote in the last mayoral election, in 2009. That’s part of a pattern that reaches back to 1993, when Giuliani got two-thirds of the Jewish vote against incumbent Democratic mayor David Dinkins.

One Jewish activist said that he had been contacted prior to the September 10 primary by people whom he described as Upper West Side Jewish leaders who were registered as Democrats and said they were looking to vote for the weakest Democrat against Lhota.

Outside one polling site on the Upper West Side, Jewish Democrats voiced dissatisfaction with their party’s candidates and said they were open to voting for a Republican in November.

The polling site, in a public school around the corner from Barnes & Noble on West 83rd Street, is where you would vote if you lived at Zabar’s. It’s the heart of the Upper West Side, an increasingly wealthy neighborhood full of Jews and liberals.

Wendy Heilbut, 35, dragged two young children with her into the voting booth. Heilbut, who identified as Jewish though “not in practice,” said that she had voted for Thompson. She said that she expected her husband to vote for the Republican candidate in the general election and that she herself was undecided.

In Brooklyn, Orthodox voting blocs were divided between Thompson and de Blasio heading into the primary.

Speaking on September 10 before voting results were available, Abraham Biderman, a member of the board of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America and a Thompson supporter, said he thought it unlikely that the Orthodox community would switch its support to Lhota in the general election — so long as Lhota trailed the Democrat.

“They’re not going to go to a loser,” Biderman said.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.