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Storobin leads Fidler after recount

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Republican rookie David Storobin is clinging to a 143-vote lead over Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) in the hard-fought race to replace disgraced former state Sen. Carl Kruger, according to the results of a recount on Wednesday.

Storobin’s razor-thin lead grew by 23 votes after poll workers recounted machine ballots from Tuesday night’s too-close-to-call special election for the vacant Senate seat.

The Russian-born lawyer emerged with 10,505 votes, while Fidler wound up with 10,362.

Final results will be determined by more than 700 emergency and absentee ballots that will be counted next week. The city Board of Elections is expected to announce a winner by the first week in April, several sources said.

Early returns on Tuesday night had Storobin up by 120, but Fidler claimed he beat his rival by more than 200 votes.

Both sides declared victory — and they doubled down on their claims after Wednesday’s recount.

“We’re confident that when every vote is counted Lew Fidler will be elected,” said Fidler spokesman Kalman Yeger.

Yeger said Fidler supporters cast a majority of the absentee ballots in the heavily blue-leaning, Brighton Beach-to-Mill Basin district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 5–1.

But Storobin’s camp scoffed at the claim.

“They had a huge voter registration advantage in the district and they lost,” said Storobin spokesman David Simpson. “Why would they have a magical come-from-behind victory with absentee ballots? It’s utter nonsense.”

Fidler’s backers refused to throw in the towel, but acknowledged that Storobin ran a surprisingly strong campaign.

“There was more motivation on the Republican side than there was on the Democratic side,” said Democratic District Leader Mike Geller. “Democrats thought Fidler was a safe bet because everyone knew him.”

The zany finish adds another chapter to an ugly race that started soon after Kruger resigned in December hours before pleading guilty to taking more than $1 million in bribes.

Fidler, who is term-limited out of office in 2013, entered the race as the clear front-runner — but Republican leaders vowed to spend up to $500,000 to help Storobin win and expand the GOP’s base across Southern Brooklyn, which has long been considered a Democratic stronghold.

The race quickly became a smear campaign after Fidler, who is Jewish, accused his opponent of having ties to Neo-Nazi groups. Storobin, who is also Jewish, disputed the claim, sparking a war of words between the two men that turned the race into a referendum on their faiths and position on abortion and gay marriage — hot-button issues for the area’s influential Orthodox and Hasidic communities, which tend to vote Republican.

The special election took another strange twist when a state committee determined that Kruger’s district will disappear in December under new legislative maps.

Whoever wins the seat will have to run in another district, or a new district that encompasses, Borough Park, Midwood and Homecrest.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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