Stepping out of P.S. 193 in the Midwood section of Brooklyn Tuesday morning, Herbert Aronson gave H. Carl McCall “two chances” to win.
“Slim and none,” said Aronson in a hoarse voice as he walked down Avenue K. But Aronson, 58, who works for the city Housing Authority, said he had pulled the lever for the beleaguered Democratic candidate anyway because of McCall’s support of Jewish causes.
“He has a record on Jewish issues, he supported [West Bank] settlements,” said Aronson. “Race shouldn’t matter to us. We’re bigger than that. We shouldn’t exclude anyone.”
Only about half of Jewish voters statewide shared Aronson’s view, however, with the other half jumping on the bandwagon to help Republican George Pataki win a double-digit victory over McCall.
Interviews with voters in Midwood, Forest Hills, Queens, Riverdale in the Bronx and on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — on a day that saw a 40 percent turnout of registered voters — produced a variety of rationales.
Rose Bender, 80, who also voted at P.S. 193, is part of the old school of Jewish Democratic loyalists. She voted straight down the Democratic line, without even knowing who was on the ticket before she arrived. “It’s pure habit,” she said. “I never miss voting,” although she described all politicians as “power hungry.”
Regina Steinberg, 55, said that she had “no impression of McCall at all,” while Pataki was “good for the Jews, good for Israel,” and has done a good job in office.
Edward Goldsmith, 68, a roofer, said he backed Pataki because he “did an excellent job during 9-11.” Goldsmith added that he found himself more in sync with the Republican Party on issues such as Israel’s security. “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” said Goldsmith.
Lila Koegl chose Pataki because he is a known quantity. “So far he didn’t do anything bad,” she said. “If you know what you have, you know what you’re getting.”
Her husband, Jack, however, said he chose the Republican because he had heard that McCall voted to raise real estate taxes while in the legislature. And, he added, he also associated McCall with former Mayor David Dinkins, who was unpopular among Jews.
“How could he be better than Dinkins?” asked Koegl, a senior citizen.
Race was not far from the picture in Riverdale, either, where one man, wearing a United We Stand baseball hat featuring the American and Israel flags, said in a heavy Yiddish accent: “We remember what happened in Brooklyn 10 years ago.” He was referring to the Crown Heights riots. “Therefore, he’s not counted on by us. Not by Jewish people.” The man, who declined to give his name, voted for Pataki.
Along Henry Hudson Parkway, on his way home from morning davening, David Singer said he would cast his ballot “Probably for McCall. He’s a Democrat. And he isn’t Pataki.” What’s wrong with Pataki? “He’s a Republican and he’s in favor of the death penalty. And I don’t know that Pataki has done all that well in New York State.”
In Glatt Shop, a kosher supermarket on Johnson Avenue, Ronnie, wearing a yarmulke and stacking groceries, said he’s for Pataki: “Pataki seems to be doing a good job. He’s done all right until now. I don’t know much about the other guy.”
At Forest Hills High School in Queens, several voters said they made their choice based on general impressions of the candidates or evaluation of their character, rather than on specific issues.
“It was a very, very hard choice,” said Doris Goldman, who works for the United Federation of Teachers. “I like McCall, but I took Pataki, because the teachers [union] endorsed him,” Goldman said. “He’s very much for education.”
Goldman, a lifelong Democrat who voted for the other Democratic candidates on this week’s ballot, said she “never” voted for a Republican before. “This is probably the first time.”
Morris Krauss, a retired salesman, said he chose McCall “because of the three [major gubernatorial candidates], I think he’s the best mensch. He came across as a man of character. Krauss called Pataki “a holier-than-thou person,” and Independence Party candidate Tom Golisano “an opportunist using his money.”
David and Serafima Zlotnik, émigrés from Moscow, both voted for Pataki.
“Because he’s an honorable person — I believe him,” said Serafima, a retired teacher. Her husband was an engineer in Russia.
“I think Pataki is the better candidate,” she said. “Mr. Pataki will do more for old people.”
On the Upper West Side, Sivia Lapidus, 25, and her brother, Michael were pulling for McCall as they watched the results come in on a projection TV in the cafe of the Makor cultural center on West 65th Street.
Sivia, a medical student, said she was unable to vote here because she did not obtain an absentee ballot in time — she’s registered in Syracuse — but said she had soured on Pataki because he had allowed tuition at state universities to rise.
“I personally can’t stand him,” said Michael of Pataki. “I don’t know the ins and outs of his record, but I don’t feel he’s done much to benefit the state. I hear about jobs being lost up in Buffalo, and the thing with tuition is a big deal.”
As they pondered $9.25 nacho chips and $9.55 macaroni and cheese on the cafe menu, the young people gathered at Makor’s election night party showed nominal enthusiasm for politics as news of Republican gains were announced via CNN.
One exception was Rebecca Witonsky of Brooklyn, a Pataki supporter, who said she supported Pataki because “he’s done a relatively good job at running the state.” She added: “I want the Republicans to take control of the Senate because I don’t like the Democrats supporting Saddam Hussein and I also feel they are not supportive enough of Israel.”
Associate editor Jonathan Mark and staff writer Steve Lipman contributed to this report.