By Lana Gersten, Forward
Dov Hikind, an influential Orthodox Jewish Democrat and New York State assemblyman, crossed party lines to endorse John McCain just eight days before the election, pointing to Barack Obama’s ties to a controversial Chicago pastor.
Hikind, who represents a heavily Orthodox area of Brooklyn, has drawn criticism from fellow Democrats for breaking party lines in past elections. Although he endorsed the runs of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Hikind threw his weight behind President Bush in 2004, pointing to Bush’s approach to Israel. Hikind said he had been in touch with the McCain campaign before making his choice this week.
Mark Broxmeyer, national chairman of the Jewish coalition for the McCain campaign, said the campaign did not know the endorsement was coming.
New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said that Hikind’s endorsement is not surprising. He views it “consistent with the feelings of his constituents,” who are less forgiving of Obama’s associations with the Wright and who tend to vote Republican anyway.
Hikind told the Forward that the primary factor behind his decision was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor in Chicago.
“For 20 years, Barack Obama did not right the wrongs of Rev. Wright’s racist and anti-Israel rants,” Hikind told the Forward. “If Obama couldn’t stand up for what’s right, how is he going to be the president of the United States?”
Obama was dogged by his ties to Wright during the Democratic primaries, but McCain has largely declined to raise the issue during recent campaigning. Hikind said he decided to speak up about this issue now because “I was actually hoping that during the last month or two that this would become more of an issue.”
“Unfortunately we’re down to the last week, and in spite of what the polls indicate,” Hikind said, “I just wanted to go on the record to say that there’s no way in the world I can support someone like Barack Obama just based on Rev. Wright.”