Wieder re-elected in KJ
Mayor, two running mates win in huge turnout
By Chris McKenna
Kiryas Joel – Mayor Abraham Wieder and two allies rolled to victory at the polls yesterday, preserving their faction's monopoly on political power in this divided community.
Wieder beat back a challenge by Jacob Banda to win a third, four-year term as mayor. His running mates, trustees Jacob Mittleman and Samuel Landau, also were elected to four-year terms, beating two candidates endorsed by the Democrats and the Kiryas Joel Alliance, the village opposition party.
In a village where large voter turnout is the norm, voters exceeded themselves. More than 5,000 of the 5,800 registered voters cast ballots – an 86 percent turnout.
The election also represents the closest Kiryas Joel's opposition movement has come to winning in three contested elections.
Wieder, 56, has been a fixture in Kiryas Joel politics since he became a trustee in 1984. He stepped down in 1990 but was appointed deputy mayor and effectively ruled from that position. He was elected mayor without opposition in 1997 and fended off a challenge in 2001 – the first contested election in Kiryas Joel history.
Banda, 57, a man with whom Wieder happens to have had a decadelong land dispute, has achieved prominence in the business world as president of the New York Diamond Dealers Club but had never run for local office in Kiryas Joel before.
With the village embroiled in disputes with the Orange County government and neighboring communities over its proposed 13-mile water pipeline and other issues, yesterday's election amounted to a sort of referendum on how the Wieder regime has navigated those tense relations while pursuing the community's interests.
The Kiryas Joel Alliance has accused the administration of inflaming neighbors with hard-nosed tactics and cries of anti-Semitism and has presented itself as a moderate alternative, one that would pursue peace. They have even suggested halting plans for the water project until the concerns of neighboring towns are addressed.
Wieder supporters, meanwhile, dismiss such claims as empty propaganda.
Before the votes were tallied, Manny Mangual, a Highland Mills man who serves as the alliance's community liaison, said that even an alliance defeat would send Wieder and politicians outside the community an important message:
"The big thing is we prove that we have a lot of support in the community, that not everybody is supporting the administration here and its endeavors," Mangual said.
Kiryas Joel election results
Abraham Wieder – 2,717
Jacob Banda – 2,219
Jacob Mittleman – 2,781
Samuel Landau – 2,870
Cheskel Weinstock – 2,112
Abraham Freund – 2,121
* Results are unofficial Winners are in bold