Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.
Aron Wieder, believed to be the first chasidic candidate in the U.S. to run for a state legislature, conceded yesterday night in an assembly race so close that it came down to the absentee ballots.
The 40-year-old Spring Valley resident lost by 61 votes, The Journal News reported, less than 2 percent, in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for a rare open seat in the New York State Assembly’s 98th District.
Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt stepped down from the seat in January to become Orange County clerk.
Wieder was running in a district that includes parts of the heavily Orthodox Spring Valley, but most of the district is in Orange County, where he has less support.
However, he didn’t appear to have support from the largest chasidic sect in the area: Satmar Jews centered around the town of Kiryas Joel, a precinct that largely voted for Tutini, local newspaper The Chronicle reported.
According to one political insider, none of the major chasidic groups in the area supported Wieder because the consensus there is that it’s better to have a mainstream politician in Albany dependent on the chasidic vote, then to have a chasidic representative who might go his own way and who would always be in the spotlight.
“Obviously it's more beneficial for a community to have control over a politician,” he said. “If there had even been a small modicum of support he would have won this handily.”
Ezra Friedlander, a political consultant well connected in chasidic communities, said Wieder had “a sizable but not overwhelming” support of chasidic voters in 2011, when he was elected to the Rockland County Legislature.
“His support came from outside the chasidic community,” said Friedlander, who is CEO of the Friedlander group. “I think that speaks to the character of Aron Wieder — that his appeal goes beyond the borders of the chasidic community. By nature he’s inclusive. He enjoys people.”
But Wieder is also a controversial figure. He was a trustee on the East Ramapo Central School District’s board of directors from 2008 to 2011 as it transitioned to a chasidic majority. Since 2007, the board has been under fire for slashing the district’s budget to keep taxes low and in April, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee its operations.
In an email to The Jewish Week, Wieder said he would consider running again should the opportunity arise but for now his focus is to “continue to serve my constituents.”
“I would like to thank every single voter, even those who did not vote for me, who took of his or her time and came out to vote,” he added. “It is an absolute honor to be on a ballot and get the support of fellow citizens.