Jewish Politics: Showdown! Hikind vs. Greenfield Over Key Congressional Seat


If you thought the race between Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Councilman David Greenfield was over, you haven’t seen anything yet. In their first public break since they made amends after Greenfield’s landslide victory over the Hikind-backed/funded/inspired Joe Lazar, Assemblyman Dov Hikind has decided to endorse a Republican challenger to defeat centrist Democratic Congressman Mike McMahon. Why does this even matter? Because the Hikind/Greenfield split over this race evidences a fundamental difference in philosophies between the two Jewish powerbrokers.
According to Hikind’s detractors, he has no loyalties to any political candidates and routinely makes his endorsement decision at the very last minute depending on whichever way the political wind blows. Hikind’s endorsement of Mike Grimm seems to follow that model. After all, just a few weeks ago Congressman McMahon was an invited guest on the “Dov Hikind Radio Show” where Hikind spent much of the show praising McMahon for his outstanding support of Israel.
So what happened? Polling happened. Recent polls show that Congressman McMahon is more vulnerable than previously thought. As a result, Hikind may have switched his support from Democratic McMahon to Republican Grimm to take credit for the possible victory of the Republican challenger. This seems to fit a well-established pattern by Hikind. Even as far back as 1994, Hikind seemed to evidence this “endorsement by polling results” strategy. At the very last minute, Hikind abandoned his close political ally Governor Mario Cuomo to endorse new-comer George Pataki in the hotly contested race for New York Governor. Coincidentally, polling showed that Pataki was on the cusp of defeating Cuomo. Ironically, Hikind could not possibly have imagined at the time that Mario’s son, Andrew Cuomo, would come back 16 years later as the Governor of New York. Sources say that Andrew has neither forgotten nor forgiven Hikind for turning on his father at the very last minute for seeming political expediency.
This brings us back to the current contest between Mike McMahon and Mike Grimm. Truth be told, the fate of the US Congress does not rest on this singular seat. By all accounts, the margin which will decide control of Congress will be a large one. So why did Greenfield decide to back McMahon? Those familiar with his thinking believe that there are two things driving him: 1. Greenfield has a soft spot for moderate Democrats – McMahon fits that mold to a tee. He voted in favor of middle-income tax cuts but stood up to Nancy Pelosi to vote against Obama’s controversial health care reform. 2. Greenfield follows the AIPAC model on supporters of Israel. The unofficial rule of AIPAC is that they always support incumbents who are pro-Israel. The reason is simple: if you don’t support incumbents who support Israel, those incumbents have little incentive to continue supporting Israel. In that regard, McMahon also fits the mold – he has an outstanding record of consistently supporting Israel. In Jewish terminology this falls under the category of “hakoras hatov” or gratitude for McMahon’s unwavering support of Israel.
More importantly, the real question is: do either one of these endorsements actually translate into anything? Lately, it seems like Hikind’s endorsements have lost their weight. Even before Greenfield beat Hikind’s candidate earlier this year, Hikind’s other candidates have done poorly in the Jewish community. A recent example is Brad Lander, who lost 6 to 1 in Boro Park despite Hikind’s massive efforts on his behalf in 2009. In fact, the last time Hikind weighed in on a congressional race, in 2006, his candidate Carl Andrews lost the Jewish vote 8 to 1.
As for Greenfield, he is a blank slate on endorsements. However, if Greenfield utilizes his Bloomberg-inspired style of micro-targeting voters like he did in his own election, he could make a real difference in this race. If he can identify, target and deliver Jewish voters for McMahon, Greenfield’s value as a political power-broker will take him well beyond the Jewish community.

Daniel Miller for YWN

Jewish Politics is a new opinion column by veteran political strategist Daniel Miller. The views and opinions reflected herein are solely of Mr. Miller and are not necessarily those of Yeshiva World News.


  1. Right on. Hikind constantly tries to perceive himself as the power-broker of his community. As we’ve seen in the last few election cycles, he is non-grata among the Jewish voters. He will always endorse the winners in the polls (even if the underdog is a better candidate, e.g. Parker vs. Felder) and flip his endorsement if needed (e.g. Rice vs. Schneiderman).

    However, I would add more reasons to his flip-flop this time. Hikind knows that his constituents veered totally to the right in the recent years, he knows that they’ll probably be voting Republican. Hikind wants to polish his image as a non-grata and take the credit for getting Grimm the majority of the votes in his district. Additionally, Hikind is mad at McMahon for endorsing Greenfield over his hand-picked candidate Joe Lazar. If he sees an opportunity of defeat for McMahon, he’ll jump on the bandwagon to return his favor.

    Truthfully, I’ve been sceptical about this race. Mike McMahon has served his constituency well. He was brave and took the courage to be the only house member of New York City to vote against Obamacare. Not only did he vote against it, he was vocal about his position. I, personally, have written to him many times and his response was always swift and sincere. I’m a registered Republican and tend to vote conservative, therefore I would probably vote for Grimm (other if the case would be McMahon vs. Allegretti) . However, if Hikind can endorse liberal candidates all the time, there’s no valid reason for the establishment to go against an incumbent that stood up against Washington. I applaud Greenfield on his position and demand a valid explanation from Hikind of why he would go against a true maverick.

  2. If Mr. Hikind would like to have some serious influence, he should get himself elected to the state Senate, where he would make a real difference.

  3. Sinaipres, I have great news for you. After close to three decades with no one opposing Hikind, we actually have a candidate running against him this time. Retired cop Brian Doherty wants to change the direction of the state. He wants accountability and checks and balances. He doesn’t want a flip-flop corrupt arm-twisting career politician representing us in Albany. You can vote for him and show Hikind that he gotta wake up or get up. Donate to to make a difference.