NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Brooklyn native Simcha Felder is among the most powerful men in Albany, but outside his Senate district, few know who he is.
CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer recently spoke with the man who’s vote often counts the most.
The state senator received a phone call Thursday from a Republican upstate senator with a simple question, “Is everything OK? Are you with us?”
It’s a question many are asking – Democrats and Republicans alike. Felder has not reached a decision yet.
“There is a lot of stress. You have a lot of pressure,” he told Kramer.
Felder, serious and independently minded, has represented Midwood and Borough Park since 2012. He ran as a Democrat but caucuses with the Republicans.
Right now, he’s the “it” man. If Democrats win a special election in Westchester on April 24, his vote will determine which party rules the Senate — the tie-breaking 32nd vote in the 63-member chamber.
“I’m not nuts. There’s a lot of benefit to being 32 and being able to get things done,” he said.
Pragmatic with a capital “P,” Felder readily admits he threw in with the Republicans so he could get things done for his constituents.
“It was a deal. And I don’t say that with a bad connotation. It was what was most practical,” he said.
He has been wildly successful. He got Albany to kill the city’s plastic bag tax, got more money for special needs students, changed the state’s tax code to lessen the effects of the recent federal tax changes, and the list goes on.
Some charge that he held the state’s budget hostage this year until there was legislation in which the state agreed not to interfere with the curriculum at yeshivas, private Jewish schools, relating to secular education. Who controls the Senate may hinge on getting even more concessions for yeshivas on how to teach English, math and science.
“There’s a lot more work to be done on the education issue,” he said. “There’s some tweaks that we have to do.”
Kramer: “So here’s the $64,000 question – Is whichever party says, ‘we’ll give you that legislation,’ would you caucus with that party?”
Felder: “I think either party would give me that. I’m hoping.”
“Simcha’s his own man. He does what’s best for his community. He always has and he always will,” political consultant O’Brien Murray said.
So for Sen. Felder, a special election in Westchester – a world away from here – will really rock his world.
He also told Kramer he’d be just as happy to have Republican Julie Killian win the special election, so he doesn’t have to be the tie-breaker.