Upstate Race Of The Year- The Rockland County Executive Election


rocklandraceThis is the most significant election in a lifetime, and the Jewish vote is critical. No, we are not talking about the NYC mayoral race or the presidential race. The important election is non other than the race of Rockland County Executive. Current Rockland County Exec Scott Vanderhoef is not running for re-election.

The Democratic candidates are  County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, former Spring Valley Justice David Fried, Dagan Lacorte and Vladimir Leon. The Republican candidate is County Legislator Ed Day.

Our first featured report on the race is based on a dozen conversations YWN had conducted with voters, local activists and machers in the Hasidic and Orthodox community.

Ilan Schoenberger, a secular Jew, is the acting chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, and the very person who year after year was responsible for advancing flawed budgets from the County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. He’s viewed as a favorite among insiders, due to the connections he had managed to establish, over the years, with every community in Rockland county.

David Fried is another long time Democrat. Mr. Fried  served in the county legislature from 2003 to 2007.  He ran for the open State Assembly seat in 2006 but lost to Ellen Jaffee. Fried was then selected in 2008, by  Sheriff James Kralik’s, a Republican, to serve as a new public safety advocate to the part-time position of Spring Valley justice. Mr. Fried, also served as a presidential advance aide for the Clinton Administration from 1998 to 2001. He earned Bill Clinton and Rep. Nita Lowey’s endorsements.

Mr. Fried courted the anti Hasidic group – ‘Preserve Ramapo’ for an endorsement since Mr. Schoenberger had earned the support of the Hasidim as a bloc vote. In exchange, Mr. Fried already wrote a letter asking the local zoning board to block a major development favored by the Jewish business community, but Fried – himself Jewish – has some support among the Orthodox, so he was rejected as an opportunist.

In the end, the Preserve Ramapo group, whose official platform is to preserve the environment in Town of Ramapo, endorsed the Republican candidate, Ed Day, who’s been described by Yossi Gestetner, a resident of Rockland, as “an anti-Abortion Tea-Party type Republican.”

The third candidate in the race is the mayor of Suffern Dagan Lacorte. Lacorte doesn’t have ties to the haredi leadership. Mayor Lacorte is Jewish,  is secular, and regularly attends services at Chabad of Suffern. As an outsider, with a scoffed up campaign chest of $650K, Mr. Lacorte is seeking to bite into Schonberger’s Jewish voting bloc, relying on a traditional run campaign. In an interview with JP Updates, Mr. LaCorte said: “I am not a member of Preserve Ramapo and will not accept their endorsement.” Mr. Lacorte scored some points in the Orthodox Jewish community by this declaration, according to some insiders who spoke to YWN.

In a video released as he threw his hat in the ring, Lacorte dropped the name of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and also touted the fact that he managed to pass a budget that came in under the governor’s two percent property tax cap – a particularly popular initiative in the NYC suburbs, which have the highest property taxes in the state and the nation. Lacorte’s supporters also note that Schoenberger voted to raise the County property taxes by 100 percent. To which Mr. Schoenberger’s supporters rebuff that attack, by pointing out that all districts voted to raise the School property tax, which was a bigger bill than the County property tax. If tax hikes are permitted, where’s the distinction, they argue.

And there’s a fourth candidate, Vladimir Leon, who appears solely in the race to get revenge on Fried for his political exploitation of the Haitian community in Spring Valley. He called on Fried to drop out after the contributions from Moshe stern were uncovered by Newsday.

Right now, the race is between Schoenberger as the favorite, and Fried and Lacorte. Both rivals must garner at least 10 percent of the Hasidic vote, respectively, to snatch away from Mr. Schoenberger his assumed victory.

Mr. Lacorte’s supporters believe that his 12-1 money advantage over Mr. Fried and his campaign running as an outsider will likely prevail. Recently, Mr. Lacorte got the endorsement of Labor union Local 754, the only construction trade union local whose territory is exclusively Rockland County. Local 754 has 350 members.

Mr. Fried, a likeable guy who had only raised around $50,000, was also harmed by the reports that he received $10K from government informant and admitted felon Moses “Mark” Stern for his failed 2006 run for New York State Assembly. When told of the contributions by Newsday, he promised to give the money to charity. “In light of Mr. Stern’s despicable actions, it is wholly right to donate that money to charity in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” he said.

The Rockland Democrats meet for their nominating convention Thursday night, but as of now, party leaders do not plan a vote on the nomination and there will likely be a September primary.

Photo credit: Sloatsburg Village

(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)