By voting as a bloc and turning out in high numbers, the Hasidic JewishÂ community has long been able to leverage its political power. Republican HouseÂ Majority Leader Eric Cantor visitedÂ the community the Friday before this year’s election to campaign forÂ Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth, who ultimately lost to Democrat Sean PatrickÂ Maloney.
The resources derived by Kiryas Joel from that power are needed: As the New York Times wroteÂ last year, the enclave has the highest poverty rate of any village, town orÂ city of at least 10,000 people in the country. The median age of its rapidlyÂ growing population is under 12.
But the last several elections, a fracture in the community has formed thatÂ diminishes the town’s political power.
Following the death of the Satmar leader Moshe Teitelbaum in 2006, aÂ succession feud began between his sons, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum and Rabbi ZalmanÂ Teitelbaum, in two communities: southern Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and KiryasÂ Joel.
In the past two congressional elections, Kiryas Joel has split its voteÂ between the rival factions. This time, Ms. Hayworth got 3,335 votes and Mr.Â Maloney got 1,518, according to unofficial results. Mr. Maloney won the race byÂ about 8,500 votes.
Some observers say the community is less politically valuable to politiciansÂ if the two brothers’ factions take opposite sides in elections.
“It hurts them if they stop voting as a bloc and just cancel each other out,” said operative Michael Fragin, who did Jewish voter outreach for the PatakiÂ administration.
The votes for Mr. Maloney were especially striking because he is openly gay,Â which would seemingly be anathema to socially conservative Satmar voters.
But others say there is value in the community hedging its bets. In a localÂ Assembly race this year, the two factions did agree on their candidate–who endedÂ up losing. If the two sides are at odds, politicians are compelled to pay itÂ some attention, according to public relations consultant andÂ Jewish politics blogger Yossi Gestetner.
“One side voted for Hayworth and lost,” said Mr. Gestetner, “but it can beÂ argued that that’s better than both sides losing.”