Kiryas Joel, NY – The race for Orange County Surrogate Court just got a lot more interesting, because Tuesday’s primary showed that there might be more going on than an election to decide who’ll resolve disputes involving wills and trusts.
The election could be a barometer, once again, of the Satmar Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel’s ability to deliver votes in a large bloc. It could also be another measurement of the gains that the county’s Democrats have made in a traditionally Republican-dominated county.
Voters in KJ turned out in overwhelming numbers for Democrat Stephen Hunter during Tuesday’s Independence Party primary, voting for him 81-14.
But Republican Robert Onofry won the Independence vote in the remainder of the county, getting an especially big “favorite son” boost in his home city of Port Jervis.
Tuesday’s results gave rise to talk in political circles that KJ voters are unhappy with the county’s Republicans because of their support for a lawsuit by the county that challenged the village’s proposal to build a 13-mile pipeline to tap into New York City’s aqueduct.
But there were also Democrats in the county Legislature who favored that lawsuit. Hunter’s campaign treasurer, Jack Berkowitz, is confident that in a presidential year, KJ voters, who went Republican in a race for County Court two years ago, will see the Democrats as the party that can best represent the interests of New York’s fastest-growing village.
“I think they see the governor, and two U.S. senators and they see the demographics of Orange County changing every day, and I think they’re going where the action is.”
It’s not just a KJ thing: Berkowitz also sees Barack Obama’s coattails extending a long way, perhaps into Onofry’s home turf, where the most recent voter-registration figures give Democrats a margin of 228 registered voters.
Onofry’s campaign manager, Damian Brady, is just as confident in the wake of Tuesday’s primary. As for KJ, Brady said, “I think both sides are seeking their support, that’s obvious. But I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. “¦ Whether it’s a phone call from David Paterson or Sheldon Silver, I can’t control that.”