Winners, losers, and Hudson Valley political capital: Part 2
In Part One of this series, we discussed the impact of the bloc vote, the Hasidic community, and the emergence of third parties impacting the political process in Orange County. Nowhere was that more clear than in the 98th State Assembly race.
Hudson Valley political capital: By the numbers…
The unofficial results, prior to the inclusion of absentee ballots, reflected a scant 10 vote difference between the Republican, Karl Brabenec, and the Democrat, Elisa Tutini. The vote has been certified as now a difference of 38 votes, with votes across all three candidates for the office. Just under 34,000 votes were cast.
To understand the third-party influence on the election, one need only consider the number of votes for Dan Castricone reflected about 26% of all votes cast. The remaining 74% of votes were spread among two candidates whose nominations were primarily decided by voter turnout in Kiryas Joel. Moreover, Castricone took away a significant number of votes from both the Republican and Democratic candidates.
Hudson Valley political capital: The Analysis…
Simply put, had there been no third-party candidate in this race, you might have seen one or more of the following outcomes:
- Kiryas Joel would have tilted an election to one candidate, given their contingent of about 7,000+ voters.
- There wouldn’t have been the same fight for remaining votes or attention paid to the candidates in the election.
- Your Assembly Candidate would have been beholden purely to KJ.
Some have already happened more than once in Orange County politics. Castricone with over 8,800 votes proved, among many things, that Kiryas Joel was the issue in this and future elections in the county, and Orange County voters said so by their protest vote. While they fell short this time around, the electorate is becoming more informed and less likely to stand with any candidate who has the clear backing of KJ leadership.
The second was the fragmenting of the vote within KJ. Karl Brabenec won 1950 votes from the KJ voting districts, a fact not lost on Satmars who were quick to boast their support. That’s not necessarily just a message of congratulations, but a not-so-subtle reminder of who helped assure a win.
Nonetheless, what became clear is that the power of a relatively untested second voting bloc — that of United Monroe — as well as informed voters in Orange County showed that voters can embrace a candidate that isn’t aligned with a major party, provided they have enough information. That’s noteworthy enough to merit mention, since it outweighs all of the votes in KJ, plus a margin of nearly 2,000, given that Castricone received only 2 votes from within the village itself.
Key Talking Points
- The Satmar bloc vote can be overcome, but not without hurdles.
- A candidate need not court the Satmar bloc vote to win, but they’ll need to differentiate themselves with a clear message on whose interests they’ll represent.
- KJ itself has become a county-wide issue, not purely a local one. Some of those reasons have been outlined in prior articles, but they include:
- High social welfare dependency
- Funding of a tax burden they represent on infrastructure based on roads, water, sewer, pollution, and other costs associated with their growth.
- Diversion of scarce resources away from revenue generating or environmental preservation interests, and toward revenue consuming interests.
And these don’t even consider the costs of an expansion by their incursion into neighboring areas by annexation or other means. Nor does it consider their lack of adherence to laws and regulations imposed on them and others.
The next steps: Who owns the Hudson Valley political capital?
The toppling of the Kiryas Joel machine requires an engaged and informed electorate. Our democratic society affords us the luxury of choosing our candidates, and taking a stance on their positions. In Kiryas Joel, those decisions are made by the political machine and dictated to their citizens as “imposed will”, and often those decisions come down to who will make decisions that are in KJ’s best interests, not those of the majority electorate at large.
Combating that approach means fighting in the same way. It means abandoning the old political party labels because in the face of promises made to one constituency, those labels don’t stand for the principles of the chosen party. In other words, if both major parties actively court the bloc vote of one village, whose interests do they represent? They’re probably not yours.
It means forcing our politicians to assert their positions in either supporting the behavior of KJ’s political machine, or supporting the majority of voters in the county who oppose that direction.
It also means that an end to voter apathy and the old style of party loyalties needs to change as we know it because it’s no longer about the party or even the politician.
It’s about their ethics. And you, the voter, now own the Hudson Valley political capital should you choose to assert it.