First a brief background on Kiryas Joel. Kiryas Joel, or KJ as it is known up in these parts, is a village in the town of Monroe in Orange County, NY. The vast majority who live in the village are Hasidic Jews - deeply religious people who tend to stick to themselves. As of 2000, there were about 13,000 people in KJ although that number has significantly increased since then - the median age of 15.0, the lowest of any municipality with over 5,000 people in the country, is reflective of the number of children each family typically has.
KJ has been a hotbed of controversy in recent years as they have tried to annex neighboring land to accomodate their population surge. My town of Woodbury recently voted to incorporate a village to try to fend off any attempts at annexation. Neigboring Blooming Grove did the same earlier this year. The reason why neigboring towns have become hostile toward KJ is because of their hideous high-density housing that they tend to build, which devalues the land around them.
So what does this have anything to do with John Hall's attempt to unseat Republican Sue Kelly? Lets first examine the 2005 town elections in Monroe. A slate of anti-growth Democratic candidates carried nearly every princinct in the town of Monroe - a fairly large town of over 35,000 people. The pro-growth Republicans, however, were endorsed by the leaders in KJ and won the village overwhelmingly to win the election. The moral of the story: KJ is a bloc vote - the leaders in the village back the candidates they deem to best suit their interests and the residents typically follow their lead - it doesn't happen all the time, but it happens most of the time.
This brings us to the good news for Hall: the New York Obvserver Politicker has announced that KJ has decided to back John Hall. The Daily News blog has more on the story. This is a huge development in the race and could be the difference between a win and a loss. The Daily News blogs reports an expected 5,000 votes from the village, but I personally expect more than that.
Most political forecasters have this race in the "lean Republican" column, but I've had this one in the "tossup" column for a while now and this new development makes the race all the more interesting.