Kiryas Joel leaders have announced their support for Dennis McWatters to fill the Monroe Town Board seat left vacant since January, praising McWatters as a “professional public servant” while castigating the citizens group that already has petitioned to put him on the ballot in November.
According to a press release from Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin on Sunday, 1,363 Kiryas Joel residents signed an independent petition to place McWatters on the ballot on a “Peace and Harmony” line. The petition was mailed to the county Board of Elections on Friday, according to the release, which cast the village’s support for McWatters as “a show of understanding and continued desire for peace.”
The release stated, “We heard the argument made by some Monroe residents that because of the voting practice of the KJ residents it may have the unintentional affect of somehow depriving the out of KJ residents in monroe of a feeling that they too are represented on the Town Board by candidates of their choice, therefore this nominating petition was submitted to nominate their candidate.”
McWatters, a town Zoning Board member and former Planning Board member, ran for Town Board in November with a slate of candidates backed by the United Monroe citizens group. Monroe voters in areas outside Kiryas Joel turned out in droves and overwhelmingly supported McWatters and the other United Monroe candidates, who lost nonetheless to contenders backed by Kiryas Joel’s voting blocs.
United Monroe is now campaigning for McWatters to serve the final year of the unexpired board term of Harley Doles, a former councilman who was elected supervisor with Kiryas Joel’s support in 2013. Doles and his fellow board members have failed to fill the vacancy through an appointment. Democrats Susan Roth and Blanca Johnson also have petitioned to run for the Monroe seat in November, and will compete in a Sept. 9 primary for the nomination.
Support for McWatters by both United Monroe and Kiryas Joel in November would guarantee his election, sidestepping a conflict that would likely exacerbate tensions over last November’s vote and the subsequent drive to expand Kiryas Joel by 507 acres.