Aron Wieder’s unconventional campaign: No campaign website, no lawn signs, but major “absentee operation”

The Hasidic candidate is relying on intracommunal campaigning, including a big push at a Skver wedding taking place on election day.

Ad for Aron Wieder in Haredi magazine The Monsey View.

Jun 24, 2024 6:01 PM


A candidate for state assembly, backed by Rockland’s Haredi lay leadership, is urging Haredi voters to vote absentee in Tuesday’s primary election.

Aron Wieder, a Democrat who currently serves on the Rockland legislature, took to Yiddish media to describe what he called an “absentee ballot operation” that he says he and other Haredi lay leaders have undertaken to ensure he becomes his party’s nominee ahead of the general election in November.

“If anyone needs an absentee ballot, they should get in touch with the activists,” Wieder said in May in an interview with the news hotline Kol Mevaser. “They can call my cell.”

Rockland legislator and candidate for NYS Assembly Aron Wieder. Credit: Rockland County Legislature

Wieder said he was working with activists in the Skver Hasidic sect on the absentee ballot operation. On Election Day, Wieder said on the radio, many residents will attend the wedding of a descendant of the grand rabbi of the Skver sect, and he seemed to suggest that activists would mobilize voters at the wedding. It was unclear whether this mobilization would include encouraging absentee votes.

Reached by Shtetl, Wieder said that he is encouraging attendees of the Skver wedding to vote absentee prior to the wedding, which will take place in the evening, because he is afraid that people will be too busy with the party to vote. 

Wieder said that he believes it is legal for a Rockland County resident to vote absentee on the day of an election if one is attending a wedding in the evening in New Square, but that does not appear to be the case.

In New York State, a new law allows people to vote early by mail without a reason. To vote absentee on the day of the election, however, residents need to meet one of the following conditions: absence from Rockland on the day of the election, detention in jail or prison, illness or disability, caring for someone who is ill or disabled, or being a patient at Veterans’ Administration Hospital. Wieder did not immediately respond to follow-up messages from Shtetl.

On Kol Mevaser, and in an interview with Shtetl, Wieder claimed other candidates in Tuesday’s primary are also emphasizing absentee voting. He said that representatives of a particular candidate who does not have community support are seeking to convince Haredi residents that their candidate actually is endorsed by Haredi rabbis.

Wieder did not name the candidate, or state which race the candidate was running in, but on Kol Mevaser, he suggested that it involved the candidate running to be a judge on the Spring Valley justice court. He told the broadcaster that members of the candidate’s campaign were encouraging Haredi voters to vote by mail, giving their ballots to them instead of submitting the ballots themselves.

“If anyone signed and handed it over to these people, they should quickly call me,” Wieder said on Kol Mevaser.

In Ramapo, home to most of the Haredim Wieder seeks to represent, 320 residents had applied to vote absentee in Tuesday’s primary as of June 21, according to an email to Shtetl from Patricia Giblin, a commissioner of the Rockland County board of elections. Another 351 residents have applied to vote early by mail. It is not clear whether this is a significant number of applications, and Giblin told Shtetl that previous election numbers are not comparable to this one.

With a clear base and experience as a representative in the area, Wieder has a good chance to win the nomination. But his campaign to become the representative for New York’s District 97 has a few unusual characteristics. Wieder, a member of the Belz Hasidic sect, announced his candidacy for assembly in February. Still, he doesn’t appear to have a campaign website or use Facebook or Instagram for his campaign. He seems to be taking a different strategy from his primary opponent, Eudson Francois — one tailored to Haredi voters. On a recent drive in the Monsey area, a Shtetl reporter saw multiple lawn signs for Francois, but none for Wieder. Wieder did not respond to a question from Shtetl asking who his treasurer and campaign manager were.

A group of ads paid for by “Friends of Aron Wieder,” which included a logo for a group called the “elections committee of the association of communities and institutions,” appeared in the June 19 issues of two Rockland Haredi print media outlets, the Monsey View and Community Connections, and endorsed Wieder for assembly. Several of those ads also endorsed candidate Justin Sweet to become a judge on the Spring Valley Justice Court, which deals with things like traffic tickets and evictions.

Ad praising Aron Wieder in Community Connections.

One of the ads was signed by thirty Haredi activists, including Josef Margaretten, a constituent services assistant for the town of Ramapo and the leader of the local emergency response service Chaverim of Rockland. A separate ad from Chaverim praised Wieder without referencing his assembly race. The previous week, an ad from Bonei Olam, an organization that helps Jewish couples experiencing infertility, had praised Wieder without referencing his assembly race, an apparent attempt to avoid running afoul of rules prohibiting 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in electioneering. On X, formerly Twitter, Wieder was endorsed by Crown Heights activist Chanina Sperlin.

It is also unclear how much money he's raised or spent in his campaign so far because the state's campaign finance database does not show that any contributions have been made to him since he announced his run. Neither Wieder, nor Mona Montal, his treasurer in at least one previous campaign, responded to questions.

Kathleen McGrath, director of public information at the state campaign finance board, told Shtetl that both Democratic candidates have missed deadlines to file required finance reports. As of publication, Friends of Aron B. Wieder, and Francois for Assembly both last filed a 2024 January Periodic report. Both committees are overdue to file both the 2024 32-Day Pre-Primary and 2024 11-Day Pre-Primary reports and could be fined as a result.

If elected, Wieder would join fellow Orthodox state legislators Simcha Eichenstein and Simcha Felder, who represent heavily Haredi districts in Brooklyn. Another Orthodox candidate for assembly, Kalman Yeger, a current member of the New York City Council is facing his own primary tomorrow in his bid to represent a heavily Orthodox district next to Eichenstein’s.

On Kol Mevaser, Wieder said that if elected, he would — like Eichenstein and Felder — seek to combat the state’s efforts to oversee and improve secular education in Haredi schools.

“My focus during my time in Albany will be on the education decree,” he said, referring to the state’s efforts in recent years to begin enforcing rules about secular education. Wieder has for years spoken out against these efforts, often touting his own background as a graduate from the Belz yeshiva in Brooklyn to argue that Haredi schools effectively prepare students for professional success and active citizenship.

Though Wieder has run for state assembly three times before, much has changed since his last attempt to win the seat. Because of redistricting, the district Wieder now seeks to represent encompasses all of the Hasidic village of New Square and most of the greater Monsey area, without including Airmont or Wesley Hills. The new constituency is largely Hasidic and he has a chance of winning not only the primary, but also the general election in November.

If Wieder does beat Francois in Tuesday’s primary, he will likely compete in November against the incumbent, Assemblymember John McGowan, a Republican who entered office in 2023. Another candidate, Thomas Sullivan, is running to be the nominee on the Conservative party line.

Nearly 76,000 voters were registered in the district as of February 27, according to data from the state board of elections. Almost half of those voters are registered Democrats, and almost one fourth of them are registered Republicans. The rest are either registered with other parties or not registered with any party.