After the release of an infamous video tape in which Donald Trump bragged about committing sexual assault, Republican politicians abandoned him in droves. Now follows a Democrat — Dov Hikind, the Brooklyn state assemblyman who represents the Hasidic community and has frequently crossed party lines to back Republicans in national elections.
“I cannot vote for Donald Trump,” Hikind announced to the crowd during a community forum in Flatbush that was supposed to feature a debate between surrogates for Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was planned that Hikind would represent the Republican nominee and Menahem Genack, an Orthodox Union official, would speak for the Democratic hopeful.
His comments were reported by the news Web site Jewish Insider.
“When we said before I am going to represent the Republican side, I would’ve loved to — if I had a Republican. Donald Trump is not a Republican. He is running on the Republican line. I wanted to support him. I was hoping as the weeks went by that he would keep his mouth closed and stop saying the things that he has said, but he can’t change, and I am really concerned,” he continued, telling the audience that he would write in House Speaker Paul Ryan, whom he praised as a “mensch.”
Hikind expanded on his remarks when reached by the Forward.
“He was a very difficult choice from the beginning,” he said, citing the Republican nominee’s mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter and his lewd statements about women. “His behavior is so offensive, so horrible, so degrading and every other adjective you can think of.”
He also blasted Trump as lacking knowledge about the issues that matter.
“Being ignorant is sort of a positive thing for him,” Hikind said.
Hikind’s comments surprised those in the mostly pro-Trump crowd.
“Tonight’s debate was a little misleading because we were supposed to have heard the views of two candidates,” Tzvi Schwartz, who attended the forum, told Jewish Insider. “I don’t think Trump is a perfect candidate. I think he’s a horrible candidate. He was my last choice. But we got to make the best of this situation. That’s why I was disappointed we didn’t have somebody who is supporting Trump.”
Heshy Friedman, who started a local group called “Jewish Democrats for Trump,” speculated to the Web site that Hikind was hedging his bets by not backing Trump.
“Hikind is a Democrat, and the problem is he played safe in case Hillary wins,” he said. “I am sure that if he knew that Trump was going to be 20 points ahead, everybody would jump on him.”
While many in the Hasidic community are registered as Democrats — and vote for the party candidate’s in local elections — there is a significant population that backs Republicans in national contests due to conservative stances on social issues and hawkish impulses on foreign policy.
City Councilman David Greenfield, who also represents Hasidic communities in Brooklyn, has backed Clinton. All other Jewish elected officials in New York City have also endorsed the Democratic nominee.
Hikind said that he was pleased with the civil discussion that took place at the forum, and that he trusted his constituents to choose the candidate right for them.
“I really thought that it was going to be confrontational,” he said about the event. “I told my people to at least let the police know because you never know what’s going to happen because there’s so much emotion around this.”
“They vote for the person who they think is best,” Hikind said about the residents of his district, explaining their tendency to support both Democrats and Republicans.
“They vote for most Democrats, but it depends on the election,” he added.
Daniel J. Solomon is the former Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.