The Dial

George Latimer defeats Rob Astorino in heated race for Westchester County Executive

By Max Rosenblum, Assistant Politics Editor

 

Democrat George Latimer emerged victorious this past Tuesday, Nov. 7, after beating out two-term incumbent Republican Rob Astorino in this year’s race for Westchester County Executive.

Although local pollsters showed Latimer up just three points in late October, Westchester’s democratic candidate won 57% of the vote in the actual election. This victory is of great significance for Westchester democrats, who, despite outnumbering Republicans 2 to 1, have conceded the position to a Republican for the past two terms due to low Democratic voter turnout.

This specific race was somewhat unusual, with many Westchester residents labeling it as “dirty.” Both candidates did not fail to bring up alleged financial malfeasance cast on their competitor, instead bringing them up repeatedly throughout the race.

Executive-elect George Latimer’s wife has $46,000 in unpaid property taxes dating back to 2012 on a Rye home separate from their own. Latimer explained that the house originally owned by his late mother-in-law is currently part of estate negotiations, and has promised that the taxes will be paid off once the estate deal is finalized. He was also accused of having $2,000 in unpaid parking tickets, along with driving an unregistered car.

Alternatively, at the heart of the Astorino probe, Manhattan businessman Jona Rechnitz recently testified that he and his friend allegedly bought influence with Astorino through the purchase of a Rolex brand watch.

While scandals garnered much of the local media attention throughout the race, the candidates still managed to express their views on the issues most pertinent to Westchester voters.

Latimer, who previously served in the New York State Senate and as a Rye City Councilman, ran on the platform of altering the status quo and changing Westchester for the better. He has vowed to disallow gun shows from taking place on county property, opposes the privatization of the Westchester County Airport, and does not support the lawsuit Astorino filed against Governor Cuomo surrounding the shutdown of the Indian Point power plant.

Astorino, running for his third term as County Executive, ran on the campaign promise of continuing to keep the property tax levy steady as he claims he has done for the past eight years. He has also taken steps to finalize a privatization deal of the Westchester County Airport, has vetoed bills that would prevent gun shows from taking place on county property, and has displayed his record of prioritizing economic growth by citing the creation of 44,000 jobs in the county throughout his past two terms.

Critics of Astorino, including Latimer, have used likened him to President Donald Trump. Billionaire Robert Mercer, also a supporter of the President and Steve Bannon, chief of Breitbart news, the self proclaimed “platform for the alt-right”, donated one million dollars to a super PAC backing Astorino. The donation generated criticism from Democrats and other Latimer supporters in the latter half of the campaign — Latimer repeatedly employed anti-Trump and anti-Bannon rhetoric in arguing for a democratic stronghold of Westchester.

The Indivisible Movement, a grassroots network of progressive organizations across the nation, played a substantial role in helping Latimer to employ this anti-Trump rhetoric and ultimately win. The movement brought together progressive groups from all over Westchester from the start, allowing them to organize, fundraise, and plan for the campaign early on.

Executive-elect George Latimer will assume office on January 1st, 2018, and will serve a 4-year term until 2022. Latimer is optimistic for the coming years as he expressed in his victory speech: “We are going to run this county well, we’re going to run it on progressive values, we’re going to keep your taxes in line…but we’re [also] going to be about jobs!”

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George Latimer defeats Rob Astorino in heated race for Westchester County Executive