Both Sides Declare Victory in Bumpy Race for a Brooklyn Senate Seat
Wackiness turned to nastiness and back again in the short but bitter special election in South Brooklyn to replace a state senator who had pleaded guilty to corruption charges. But the biggest twist of the race was its outcome — or lack thereof when election night ended.
With all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results received by the New York City Board of Elections, the Republican upstart candidate, David Storobin, 33, held a tenuous 120-vote lead over Lewis A. Fidler, 55, the Democratic city councilman for the 27th District seat. But there were still at least 757 paper ballots outstanding, and those would not be counted until Tuesday, said Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the board of elections. The entire legal process, which also will include a random audit and the counting of emergency ballots, could take at least 10 days.
And yet, both candidates declared victory to their supporters Tuesday night. And so an already contentious race to fill Carl Kruger’s seat, which includes Brighton Beach, Borough Park, Gravesend, Midwood and Mill Basin, only intensified late Tuesday night.
“We fought all the way from the start with everyone saying we were the underdogs,” Mr. Storobin said after midnight on Wednesday. “We are confident that we will keep our lead and increase it.”
Mr. Storobin, who was born in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the United States with his mother when he was 12, surprised the Democratic establishment with an aggressive campaign that drew on support from Orthodox communities.
“It’s a Cinderella story. It’s an ugly duckling story,” he said. “I am proud and humbled to be elected to New York State Senate. It’s only something that can happen in America.”
And yet, Mr. Fidler asserted his own victory. By his campaign’s count, he was ahead 207 votes. According to the board of elections, Mr. Storobin received 10,756 votes, and Mr. Fidler had 10,636.
“The good folks of Southern Brooklyn want someone with integrity to represent them,” said Jennifer Krinsky, his chief spokeswoman. “Every step of the way, Mr. Storobin has shown with his lies that he’s not the candidate for them, and the voters spoke today.”
Ms. Krinsky added: “After every vote has been counted, Lew Fidler will be the state senator for the 27th District, and he looks forward to bringing a common-sense approach to government and the Statehouse.”
For nearly three months, the candidates, both Jewish, attacked each other’s commitment to their faith. Apologies were demanded, debates were canceled and news conferences were poached.
There was baiting, backbiting and name-calling. More than a quarter of a million dollars was raised and spent in three months.
And all of that was for a term of nine months in office as a lame-duck senator in a district that, thanks to the redrawn lines, will cease to exist.
After Mr. Kruger resigned his seat and pleaded guilty in December, a seemingly straightforward election between a longtime politician and a newcomer turned ugly. Speaking to a rally for Brooklyn Young Democrats in Sheepshead Bay in January, Mr. Fidler criticized the qualifications of Mr. Storobin. He said that Mr. Storobin’s Internet writings showed that he had “ties to skinheads, neo-Nazis” and that white supremacist groups had linked to the articles on their sites.
That got the dialogue frothing. Mr. Storobin cited his relatives who fought the Nazis and said Mr. Fidler had impugned his mother. And he lined up more than two dozen rabbis from Orthodox communities to endorse him and criticize Mr. Fidler for his comments.
The front page of the Flatbush Jewish Journal went as far as to say that it was “prohibited to vote for Lew Fidler” because he “wants to teach same-gender marriage to 6-year-old children.”
Mr. Fidler had the endorsement of Gregory Davidzon, a power broker in the Russian community who has a popular radio show. But Mr. Storobin, a vice president of the Republican Party in Brooklyn, had an Orthodox community that had begun to flex their political muscles in September. They helped elect a Republican, Bob Turner, over a Democrat, David I. Weprin, in the area’s previous special election, to replace Anthony D. Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District.
From the outset, Mr. Storobin, a lawyer who started his own practice, pounced on Mr. Fidler’s negative comments about him, turning the race personal.
He generated support from the staunchly Orthodox communities who did not favor Mr. Fidler’s support of same-sex marriage. Mr. Storobin also attracted some voters from the Russian community of Brighton Beach, where he lives, who wanted to elect a candidate who spoke their language.
Although Mr. Fidler was considered a front-runner at the start of campaigning, Mr. Storobin steadily gained momentum and was buoyed by the backing of the state’s Republican Party.
The cries of dirty politics wailed loudly even on Election Day. The police were called to investigate a 911 call of a woman believed to be a Fidler volunteer who said she had been struck by a vehicle outside a polling station at a school in Sheepshead Bay. The police, according to a spokeswoman, Deputy Inspector Kim Royster, said that the woman had not been hit, but that there was also a dispute nearby involving a campaign poster torn off a pole.
The campaigning may have ended, but the real claims of victory will have to wait until the final vote is tallied.
The counting begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, when officials for the city board of elections begin reviewing the data from the voting machines.