Election: Cardone and McGinn score Monroe council win.

Monroe Council

Election: Cardone and McGinn score Monroe council win.

In a crushing upset that was as much a referendum on Dan Burke as it was a sentiment about the current Harley Doles-led Town Board, United Monroe candidates Tony Cardone and Mike McGinn delivered a stunning upset over incumbent Monroe council members Dan Burke and Dennis McWatters.

Vote tallies as of late Tuesday evening wen’t even close, as the United Monroe candidates defeated Harley Doles-aligned Dan Burke by a margin of almost 2:1. The vote tallies underscored voter disenchantment with the incumbent Town Board, and the fractious divide within Kiryas Joel between the main voting faction and The KJ Alliance, Kiryas Joel’s dissident voting group.
Monroe CouncilThe results follow closely on the heels of last week’s announcement by the Monroe Democratic Committee retracting their endorsement of Burke, and the announcement some weeks prior by Dennis McWatters that he was suspending his campaign on the Independence Party Line. McWatters’ move, seen as largely symbolic, was viewed as an early concession of the race, recognizing his chance of victory was remote.

Burke’s loss demonstrated the change in political landscape across the town. Historically Monroe Council candidates — and candidates for other county, state and federal races — who have lobbied heavily for the Hasidic bloc vote could count on a very significant share of Monroe’s vote. And the voting population of Monroe greatly impacts county & state elections, as well as Congress races. So goes Monroe, so goes Orange County. It was a strategy used successfully for more than 20 years to court the Hasidic bloc in order to ensure a campaign win.

This latest result shows the cracks in that armor. While the Hasidic population still votes in large numbers, and still largely supports single candidates in order to gain the most leverage, simply courting the main voting faction no longer is a guarantee of political success.

Voting Strategy

Monroe Council

(Photo courtesy Times Herald-Record)

In 2014, the strategy worked for the campaign of Dennis McWatters in courting the smaller Hasidic faction in conjunction with the large non-Hasidic vote in Monroe, to achieve a decisive victory in an off-year for local elections. And that strategy worked because both of those voting groups have been disenfranchised by their respective governments.

Both United Monroe and the KJ Alliance share the same disenfranchised treatment from the Village of Kiryas Joel and the Town of Monroe, respectively. And now both have shown the results of their public’s discontent. Where Burke relied heavily on courting KJ’s main bloc vote, he failed in his own outreach to those outside KJ’s main voting faction, and alienated those living on the south side of the Quickway in the rest of Monroe. The lack of a two-pronged strategy cost him his Monroe Council seat as an incumbent, and it’s one that also threatens the Monroe Supervisor and Councilmen Gerard McQuade and Ric Colon. The only potential for the remaining Monroe Councilmen in 2017 is a complete change in their treatment of their constituents.

Divisive Tactics

The Town Board of Monroe, for the past several years, has practiced the politics of division. By engaging in rhetoric that pits Kiryas Joel and Monroe against each other, the result has been divisive dialogue between the two communities. It’s a platform on which Harley Doles, the current Monroe Town Supervisor, has been able to find a pulpit to preach of hatred and intolerance, and that has earned him a reputation as manipulative. It’s also the platform that Kiryas Joel’s leadership has used to further an objective of expansion and further isolation. If anything, this election proves a few key points:

  • Division and ignorance only work when the governments of communities take an active approach to keeping their citizens ignorant of the issues. History proves that it doesn’t work in the long-term.
  • The leadership of the two governments have shown their hand as attempting to assert unrealistic control over their citizens. This, also, only works in the short term, or until people figure out that they can work and live together collaboratively.
  • Democratically elected governments are not dictatorships. Unfortunately, that is a lesson Harley Doles appears incapable of learning. And time will tell if the people of Monroe once again rise to the occasion of overcoming their individual differences to reach solutions.
  • There’s more than one way to create a bloc vote, and now there’s more than one bloc in Orange County.

For now, Monroe Council has two new elected officials, and can potentially affect an upset of the political direction of the town if others can be persuaded along with them. Doles and McQuade appear lost beyond any recovery. Ric Colon might just have the luxury of being the deciding vote if he realizes that his remaining Monroe Council colleagues have repeatedly abused him and thrown him under the bus. We hope he’s smarter than what he’s shown so far.

Managing Editor