2021 election hints Lakewood Bloc Vote, VAAD endorsement not as important any longer

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LAKEWOOD, NJ – Lakewood Township and surrounding communities are changing. In years past, a predominantly local population in Lakewood would often take political direction from the Lakewood VAAD, a once powerful and influential group of rabbis and business owners that speak directly to the city’s large Orthodox Jewish population.

In the past, the endorsement of the large, typically conservative population of Orthodox Jews living in Lakewood had a large impact on statewide elections. This year, most in Lakewood ignored the VAAD’s endorsement, or so it seems.

The Lakewood VAAD endorsed Phil Murphy for Governor. Jack Ciattarelli however, won the Lakewood vote but lost the election. In a city where over 37,000 people came out to vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2020, just 18,000 people came out to vote in last Tuesday’s election.

Trump reigned supreme in Lakewood, getting 30,648 of the 37,000 plus votes here in 2020.

Ciattarelli won more votes in Lakewood, despite the VAAD’s endorsement. Jack, as he went by during the election had 11,644 votes to Murphy’s 7,112.

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The VAAD endorsement seems to have fallen upon deaf ears for the most part.

Phil Murphy has been kind to Lakewood, but his overly progressive agenda might be too much for religious Jews to stomach. The VAAD backed Murphy for his social policies and economic social reform that helps a lot of people in the Lakewood community.

At the end of the day, the voters of Lakewood rejected Murphy’s more radical agenda that includes vaccine mandates, closing businesses, shutting down religious services during the pandemic, and Murphy’s pro-abortion stance.

Murphy has also defended Lakewood and surrounding communities from aggressive tactics to curb Orthodox Jewish settlement, which could factor more into why the Democrat governor garnered 7,000 votes, more than a statement from an elitist religious council. Jack Ciattarelli’s stance on the issue was not so clear. On one hand, he pledged to back Lakewood residents and support Orthodox Jews. On the other hand, he campaigned before organizations that have been hostile to the Orthodox Jewish community such as the Jackson Township Republican Club. Members of that club, including Mayor Michael Reina and other high profile elected officials past and present are currently under investigation by both the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice for civil rights violations against Jews.

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Both candidates campaigned heavily in Lakewood, hoping to win the coveted block vote, which at the end of the day, didn’t give either candidate an advantage in the overall election. Now, some are saying the Lakewood vote has been marginalized when it comes to picking a governor as a similar split was seen in 2017 with Kim Guadagno.

Even if every voter in Lakewood pushed the button for Ciattarelli, it would not have made a difference. He now trails Murphy by 65,000 votes, far exceeding the 7,112 cast for Murphy in Lakewood.