Saturday, November 12, 2005

Kiryas Yoel power brokers

Satmar infighting evident by the recent poll numbers:

Times Herald-Record:

For years, there was only one set of power brokers in this Hasidic community who could deliver thousands of votes on Election Day, one group for politicians to court.
But four or five years ago, a coalition of citizens opposed to this ruling caste and its chief rabbi coalesced and named itself the Kiryas Joel Alliance: a minority party with its own political endorsements and more than a thousand votes to wield.
Since then, both sides have jockeyed for power and prestige. The majority faction of Mayor Abraham Wieder has stayed well out in front at the polls. But this week, it felt the heat of the Alliance for the first time in a Monroe Town Board election.
The Alliance decided to throw its weight behind three Democratic challengers – a break from the last two town elections, when both Kiryas Joel blocs backed the Republican incumbents and smothered an overwhelming desire in the rest of Monroe for new faces.
The Alliance move posed a genuine threat to the Wieder-backed Republicans. So the Karl Roves of Team Wieder came up with the ingenious strategy of campaigning at the last minute for a second slate of challengers – the SaveMonroe candidates – to peel off Democratic votes.
Phones started ringing in Monroe, playing a recording of a young woman reading what sounded like a sincere script. "The only party that has not sold its soul to 'special interests' is SaveMonroe," she read.
Next, voters streaming to Monroe polling stations on Tuesday encountered homeless men hired to hand out bogus fliers supporting SaveMonroe and trumpeting the Alliance's support for the Democrats (a potential turn-off in Monroe). Whether this tactic sealed the Republican victory is anyone's guess. Alicia Vaccaro, the Democratic candidate for supervisor, came within 380 votes of unseating Sandy Leonard. How many votes do the two blocs now deliver? One gauge might be this year's county legislative contest, in which the Wieder faction outpolled the Alliance by roughly 2,750 to 1,600. (The Alliance believes deceptive fliers and other dirty tricks suppressed its totals.) Even so, the Alliance-backed Democrats would almost certainly have trounced the incumbents in this week's Monroe Town Board race, if they'd been the only slate of challengers.
As it turned out, the SaveMonroe candidates won huge totals outside Kiryas Joel, more than the Democrats and far more than the Republicans. They did so despite being relegated to the Conservative Party ballot line.
The results also suggest that a fractured Kiryas Joel vote can still swing close races, even those drawing from a much larger voting pool than Monroe.
For instance, the Kiryas Joel blocs just might have pushed Debra Kiedaisch and Lori Currier Woods ahead of Christine Krahulik in the race for two Family Court judge seats.
Then there's Stewart Rosenwasser, who's about 1,000 votes ahead of Matthew Byrne in a state Supreme Court race before absentee ballots are counted. He angered both Kiryas Joel factions with decisions he issued in recent weeks. But by Election Day, all was forgiven. Both teams delivered, with 4,000 total votes.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 6:09 PM

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