Scott Stringer is used to Jewish support. Will it carry him to City Hall?
Scott Stringer, who announced his candidacy for New York City mayor on Tuesday, has more campaign donations from Manhattan’s heavily Jewish — and wealthy — Upper West Side than anywhere else, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board data.
Stringer, currently New York’s comptroller and former borough president of Manhattan, has built a war chest of about $1.4 million since 2018 that now will help finance his 2021 mayoral bid. Of that, about $175,000 came from three ZIP codes, 10023, 10024 and 10025 — from 60th to 115th Streets, Central Park West to the Hudson River — in more than 930 contributions.
Stringer, who grew up Jewish in Washington Heights, now lives on the Upper West Side and has sought support from all corners of the city’s Jewish communities throughout his political career.
The Jewish Week reported that he won nearly 70 percent of the Jewish vote in 2013 when he ran for comptroller against another Jewish candidate, former Gov. Elliot Spitzer (perhaps a dubious achievement, given that Spitzer had been forced to resign amid a prostitution scandal five years before).
(Disclosure: My sister, Melissa Boigon, was an unpaid intern on Stringer’s campaigns in 2011 and 2013.)
Previous endorsements indicate support from prominent Jews like the late New York Mayor Edward I. Koch, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Gloria Steinem, but Stringer has also spent significant time courting the Orthodox Jews of Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, winning the backing of leaders of those communities including City Councilor David Greenfield.
In 2011, Stringer chopped vegetables at Masbia kosher soup kitchen on Coney Island Avenue and then met up with Williamsburg’s Hasidic leaders.
He brushed elbows with Flatbush’s Jewish leaders in 2017 at Moisha’s Discount Supermarket.
He lunched with the executive vice president of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council in 2018, earning praise from Rabbi Chanina Sperlin that he was a “Real mensch.”
BP: Photo Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer visiting Boro Park Jewish Community Council pic.twitter.com/9NDSho1O
— GoingUp (@GoingUp3) January 29, 2013
More recently, Stringer condemned a questionnaire that was circulated by the Democratic Socialists of America asking local candidates to agree not to visit Israel if elected.
But Stringer has also sometimes alienated an already skeptical chunk of New York’s Jewish community — his 2019 birthday tweet to the Rev. Al Sharpton, for example, elicited a scathing piece from Yeshiva World, the widely-read Orthodox news site. Yeshiva World reminded its readers that Sharpton is “a rabid anti-Semite,” often derided in the Crown Heights Lubavitch community for his role in stoking tensions during the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
Last year, the Jewish Press slammed Stringer’s endorsement for Queens District Attorney of Tiffany Caban, who ran in part on her support for criminal-justice reform. Haredi Jews, who vocally support the police, have made opposing this reform a central political issue in their communities.
And Stringer’s own support for police reform could leave him without the support of New York’s Orthodox Jews.
Stringer made his mayoral announcement Tuesday from Inwood Hill Park near his childhood home, flanked by New York’s Democratic left wing, including State Sens. Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. That tableau seemed aimed at galvanizing younger, liberal voters, but it could also turn off Orthodox Jews, who tend to be more conservative.
While current Mayor Bill de Blasio cannot run for reelection due to term limits, Stringer still took a dig at the mayor during his announcement, imploring voters to “bring leadership back to City Hall and build a city for everyone.”
De Blasio has long garnered Orthodox support by protecting religious yeshivas from more government oversight that would likely bring more secular education in subjects like English, math and science, but his handling of the coronavirus response left some feeling wounded.
Stringer will probably not be the only candidate distancing himself from de Blasio.
Mayor de Blasio was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish leaders across the city this spring for his tweet broadly criticizing “the Jewish community” for failing to social-distance after a Hasidic rabbi’s funeral drew crowds of thousands to a Brooklyn street.
So far, Stringer is the only significant Jewish politician who has officially entered the 2021 mayoral race, though there is a candidate named Max Kaplan who described himself as the director of social media at a firm called Talent Resources on a now-deleted Instagram profile. He does not appear to have a website and has only raised $152 in campaign contributions.
New York has had three Jewish mayors, starting with Abe Beame in 1963, who was followed by Koch, and then de Blasio’s immediate predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who served from 2002 through 2013.