Kings County Politics
Photos: Mendy Toledano
It’s a few days before the Jewish holiday of Passover and Menachem (Mendy) Raitport hoists a 40-pound box of meat on his right shoulder and exits his crowded Crown Kosher Meat Market and delivers it across a bustling Kingston Avenue to a waiting car across the street.
“You picked a bad time to interview me,” he tells the Kings County Politics Reporter. “I’m busy, but if you want you can follow me along and ask questions as I work.”
And so it went for Raitport, a small business owner with eight kids, who due to a filing error that left nobody on the Democratic Party Line in the coming special election for the 43rd Assembly District seat, has a solid shot at becoming the first Republican lawmaker to represent Crown Heights and Central Brooklyn in recent memory, if ever.
Raitport is a member of the growing Lubavitch Jewish community in the district – a vocal minority of roughly 5,000 people within the vastly majority black district of about 170,000 constituents. However, if his three opponents, Shirley Patterson, Geoffrey Davis and Diana Richardson – who are all black – split the black vote of the expected light turnout, it could allow Raitport to slip in as the winner.
“All the rabbis are supporting me,” said Raitport, who likes his chances. “The community said they are going to back me. Nobody is going to take our interests as seriously as I will because even though they all (the other candidates) have our best interests in mind so they say, we’re never first fiddle. We’re always second fiddle.”
Raitport promised, though, if he wins he would represent everybody and not just the Jewish community interests.
“This is a mixed neighborhood. You say the Jewish community, the black community, but we’re not a separate community. No, we’re one group. Racism is what you make it. Anybody who lives in this neighborhood knows that most of the black people who live in this neighborhood are really good , hardworking, earnest people. The young ones. The ones that get into trouble. They don’t have jobs. One of the platforms I’m running on is creating jobs.
“How do we create jobs? Not by having public schools putting out dummies. We have to work into the system and put in places classes that help everyone. You have to understand not everyone is meant to sit through regular classrooms and those that are not, you have to make classes to teach them trades such as electricity, plumbing, roofing, masonry work and auto mechanics. Yes there is some such programs, but not enough and we have to help those who the system failed years ago and who are lost. It’s a known fact when a kid has a purpose they don’t go to drugs. They don’t go to rob because they feel pride. When there’s no pride then they end up doing drugs and get into trouble. As an assemblyman I would be all-inclusive.”
Raitport said becoming a Republican in Kings County, which has one of the highest number of registered Democrats of any county in the country, is a decision he made years ago.
“I’ve always been a Republican – my whole life,” said Raitport. “I don’t want to paint a broad stroke over the whole Democratic Party, but I find it has too much corruption and there is too much politics. And for years they never really protected America the way it should be protected.”
The district includes Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Wingate and Lefferts Gardens. The special election is May 5.
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