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GOP/Reform alliance creating new era in local politics


The sea change in Rockland and Orange County politics continues, as in one short year’s time Republican Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (District 98 including portions of Orange County and the Town of Ramapo) has ditched the partial support of Monroe’s Kiryas Joel religious bloc vote in favor of an alliance with the Reform Party and United Monroe, an independent citizens movement in Monroe similar to the Preserve Rockland movement in Rockland.

Brabenec, who is up for reelection in 2016, made his stripes known December 5 at Fallkirk Country Club, when he endorsed former political rival Dan Castricone’s bid for Congress. Orange County Legislator Dan Castricone (R-Tuxedo), a Stony Point native (NRHS ‘80) who also runs an All State branch in Nanuet, ran against Brabenec for Assembly in 2014. After losing the GOP nomination, the Republican Castricone controversially chose to run on the third party line United Monroe, upsetting Republicans at the time who considered him nothing but a spoiler.

Castricone ultimately brought a record turnout for a third party line and came in third in the race with 26.1 percent of the vote. Brabenec, who had the Conservative and Independence lines and support of part of the Kiryas Joel community, still had enough votes for the win.

After doing the math and perhaps examining his conscience Brabenec came to the conclusion that in 2016 being friends with United Monroe is a better idea than being friends with Kiryas Joel. Lo and behold, only 13 months after taking their votes, Brabenec assailed the “corrupt influence of Kiryas Joel political establishment” as he announced his support for Castricone’s Congressional bid. Brabenec first resisted KJ in 2015 during the annexation debate in the state Legislature.

Castricone had dove enthusiastically into the anti-KJ movement in 2014 and continued the same rhetoric on Saturday. He vowed to fight against allowing “one community to run roughshod over the culture” of the entire region. He portrayed his Democratic opponent Sean Patrick Maloney as a handpicked favorite of elite interests as well as the Kiryas Joel bloc vote. Castricone said Maloney has made “a pact with the golden calf.”

His populist rhetoric soared with surprising eloquence as he called on his supporters to fight for a better America and a more even playing field, assailing the too big to fail culture that has dominated Washington the past decade. But to the Hudson Valley, Castricone’s strategy and Brabenec’s change in tone has its own significance.

As seen in Rockland in 2013 and 15, Republican candidates such as Ed Day and George Hoehmann have merged with grassroots movements fighting the influence of the religious bloc votes formerly dominant in local politics, creating a new formula for winning elections and reforming government. While the future is in the distance, it appears that the momentum created by the GOP/Reform alliance and grassroots organizations such as Preserve Ramapo, Preserve Rockland, United Monroe and others may lead to a permanent shift in the trajectory of local politics.

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