While State Sen. Simcha Felder of the 17th senatorial district was delaying budget talks in Albany, Brooklyn resident, Democratic candidate Blake Morris (@BlakeMorris4NYS) was launching his own campaign to unseat the incumbent who governs Borough Park, Midwood, Kensington, Sunset Park and parts of Bensonhurst.
The candidate’s rolling launch began on March 19, when he registered with the New York State’s Board of Elections. Since then, Morris made his initial announcement on Facebook and gradually changed his social media presence to reflect his candidacy.
As a long time resident of Brooklyn, and 6th generation New Yorker, Morris prefers to say the district chose him –– poking fun at the area’s redistricting inconsistencies. The 56-year-old has served as an attorney for three decades and is married with one child.
Morris joined the community-based organization NYSD17 when it was formed almost two years ago and served on its steering committee until his decision to run for public office.
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“We formed because we were tired of having a Democrat vote for the Republican majority of the state senate,” said Morris.
Naturally, the conversation turned to what some called a temporary hijacking of the state’s budget negotiations — his opponent’s filibustering on the topic of Yeshivas.
“The Court of Appeals has consistently ruled that New York State has the right to supervise private education and they need to do so in a minimal capacity. Senator Felder is taking this one step further and he wants to take minimal capacity to no capacity,” said Morris. “And that is unacceptable.”
Morris contends that the minimal involvement in quality private school education is important because it ensures all schools are producing productive citizens, a debate he once had in-person with Felder at a NYSD17 meeting.
While he opposed Felder’s Yeshiva stand-off during state budget talks, Morris said it was the incumbent’s audaciousness over a hyper-local issue that pushed him to run.
A year ago, the incumbent was widely criticized for sponsoring a bill that would increase the speed limit on Ocean Pkwy from 25 mph to 30 mph. Morris claims that after some opposition from him and other NYSD17 members the state senator rewrote the bill to add an additional 5 mph.
“We were already activated and protesting but then he added gasoline to the fire.”
Ultimately Felder dropped the bill to increase the speed limit increase, but still has jurisdiction over the road because Ocean Pkwy is considered a state highway.
The candidate also had thoughts on the New York City Housing Authority, the embattled housing complex that has dominated recent media coverage.
As a contract attorney who represents client’s property rights, Morris said the city is obligated to provide quality and livable accommodations for all NYCHA residents.
As for where the state should pull funding to ensure NYCHA’s fixes, Morris said the money should come from banks –– a method he referred to as the Willie Sutton Theory, dubbed after a famous, mid-1900s Brooklyn bank robber.
“Most of NYCHA needs are capital expenditures and we are drowning in capital, so if the state issued more bonds at low interest rates, there’s plenty of capital that would be attracted to our bond issues,” said Morris. Morris also suggested the city and state retirement fund should re-invest in local projects like NYCHA rather than transnational corporations.
On the topic of state lawmakers not encouraging women in the room while they develop a new policy response, Morris called the act “ridiculous” and said the policy makes no sense. Morris also resents the closed-door budget processing and encourages more transparency coming out of Albany and during the session.
No word on whether Morris will be joining the anti-IDC group that has sprung up to take strip the breakaway Democrats of their posts. However, he says at least one person has reached out from the cohort.
Blake will face the Democratic incumbent State Sen. Simcha Felder in a Sept. 13 primary and should either candidate run on a separate line outside the Democratic Party, they will face off again on Nov. 6.
(Updated to reflect that the primary is on September 13 not 12)