It's been one year since Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef announced he was retiring after 5 terms in office, leaving a debt-ridden and ethnically divided county facing the challenge of a new cross-Hudson bridge, a bankrupt public nursing home and an inadequate infrastructure. David Fried is running on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families party lines. He faces Ed Day on the Republican and Preserve Rockland lines. Thomas Sullivan is on the Conservative Party line but has not actively campaigned. Any votes Sullivan draws come at Republican Day's expense.
These are the five things to watch for as the results come in:
1. Rally in the Valley- Spring Valley is David Fried's home base and the center of his political gravity. He served there as a judge and represented the community as a county legislator. Spring Valley is Rockland's largest and most diverse village; an epic battle to succeed indicted Mayor Noramie Jasmin is underway and sucking up most of the political oxygen. That could drive up turnout in this most Democratic of Democratic neighborhoods and Fried is counting on a massive vote there to lift his political wings. Day has teamed up with Calherbe Monel, a Haitian-American television talk show host who is seeking the mayoralty on Day's Preserve Rockland line, in an effort to siphon Haitian-American Democrats from Fried. Spring Valley is 8 to 1 Democrat and Day should get clobbered there. If he doesn't, listen for the cheering at the Comfort Inn in Nanuet, where relieved Republicans will be celebrating.
2. Standing Room Only in the County Seat: If Fried is counting on Spring Valley, Day is looking to his political base in New City, a Democratic leaning area where he has successfully won his county legislative seat in multiple elections. Day needs to win the Town of Clarkstown, where New City is located, by big numbers. Fried supporters have pushed back hard there, reminding Clarkstown Democrats that Day is right of center on abortion. To win the race, Day needs a multi-thousand vote margin in Clarkstown. If Fried keeps it tight there, the whooping will be loud at the Casa Mia Manor House in Blauvelt where county Democrats are taking in the election returns.
3. Hasidim But I Don't Believe 'Em: When all else fails in Rockland, you can liven up any campaign by linking an opponent to the controversial Hasidic "bloc vote" in Ramapo township. The "bloc," which is an amalgam of rival religious factions that attempt to find common political purpose by voting for the same candidate, has lined up behind Fried despite his vocal opposition to expanded Hasidic housing. Why? Day's rhetoric opposing Hasidic growth has been even more heated and his campaign aligned itself with Preserve Ramapo, which has spent over a decade fighting the Hasidim. Day attacked the Hasidim from the beginning of the race, as he expected to face Ilan Schoenberger, a Hasidic-backed legislator who Fried bested in September's Democratic Primary. When Schoenberger lost, the community's leaders got behind Fried as the lesser of two evils. Whether they can generate enough turnout to support a candidate who has been openly critical of the community remains to be seen. But the leadership there is certainly trying and a Fried victory requires a high turnout in Monsey.
4. Down by the Riverside: Fried's primary victory was propelled by liberal activists in the Hudson Riverfront communities of Nyack, South Nyack and Piermont and the strong support of former Orangetown supervisor Thom Kleiner, a popular figure there who will land a high profile county job if Fried is victorious. Fried's opposition to the proposed United Water desalination plant and endorsement from Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club play very well here. A big vote for Fried in the Nyacks will offset heavy losses in conservative Pearl River and Blauvelt, where many law enforcement families are cheering Day, a retired cop. Fried took 85% of the vote here in the Primary and needs to post strong numbers here to emerge victorious countywide. Riverfront communities in Haverstraw, which have heavy Democratic enrollment, also need to deliver for Fried. If he hold the Democratic base in a county with a 2 to 1 Democratic enrollment edge, he wins. If Day's campaign to appeal to Democrats by stressing that the "R" after his name stands for Rockland not Republican erodes that base vote, the party of Jackson is in trouble.
5. Absentee Ballots: An unprecedented number of absentee ballots have been cast in this year's local elections, including many gathered by the Independence Party in Clarkstown. While absentees generally track the Election Day results, it's clear that political leaders have been trying to get as many votes in the pre-election bank as possible with the absentee ballot drive. That could boost Fried, who gained Independence Party backing when the party's preferred candidate, Schoenberger, lost the Democratic Primary in September. Absentee ballots will also play a critical role in Spring Valley's mayoral race; it is unlikely a definitive winner in that battle will emerge tonight.