Democrats Mull Runs In Westchester County Executive Race

Feb 8, 2017

One Democrat has already announced a bid in this year’s race for Westchester County executive, and now others in the party are considering it. Meanwhile, Republican County Executive Rob Astorino has said he will seek a third therm.

Ken Jenkins of Yonkers, who serves on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, announced in August he would run. Now, at least three other elected officials say they are considering campaigns. State Senator George Latimer of Rye says he is thinking about entering the race.

“This is a real managerial responsibility. And I think if you begin it with thinking, do you have, do I have, a vision for Westchester, how would I articulate that and would it be persuasive,” says Latimer. “And when you get to answer that question, then you’re in a position to say, this is the basis upon which I run a campaign, and then this would be the administration that would follow the campaign if I was successful, and that becomes the basis for you to decide whether you want to run or not.”

Greenburgh Assemblyman Tom Abinanti also is considering a run.

“I’m talking to different people, some of the Democratic leaders, some of the people in the community, to see what their concerns are and how best to shape a campaign to get the message to the public,” Abinanti says. “This is an off-year election. A lot of people don’t really pay attention to it so it’s hard reach out to the community. But we’ve got to talk to a lot of people and make some decisions probably sometime after the budget is passed in Albany, so I’d say 60-to-90 days. I’m anticipating there’ll be a Democratic Convention, and I think that will resolve who the candidate will be.”

Jenkins, who has served as Board of Legislators chairman, says he intends to head into a primary if any others formally announce a run.

“What we want is the people’s voice to be heard. We shouldn’t be trying to short circuit any process. I think that anybody and everyone that wants to  present those credentials to the people of Westchester should do so,” says Jenkins. “So, all of my colleagues are all friends of mine and we’re not running against each other, we’re running to be county executive. And we all have different strengths and I believe that the people should decide.”

Latimer, who grew up in Mount Vernon, served on the county’s Board of Legislators and was its first ever Democratic chairman.

“It’s a tough task. I don’t underestimate it, but I think there’s a hunger out there in Westchester County for something different,” says Latimer. “We’re watching a national administration now that’s just taken over that’s doing a lot of different things frankly that are very questionable. And I think Westchester people who are moderate, who would vote for a Republican for this position and a Democrat for that position, I think they’re watching the national scene, and I don’t think they’re particularly pleased with what they see. And I think they want to see a Westchester direction that isn’t that.”

Abinanti is a three-time majority leader of the county Board of Legislators who was elected to the state Assembly in 2010.

“I think Westchester County has lost its vision, lost its focus on helping people in Westchester County and improving the quality of life here in the county,” says Abinanti. “I think we need a county government, especially in light of what’s going on in Washington, that is going to preserve our environment, is going to take care of the public health, is going to fix our infrastructure, which is crumbling.”

Astorino did not respond to a request for comment but has said he would seek a third term. His reelection campaign announced it raised more than $1 million for the January 2017 fundraising period. Astorino prides himself on having been able to either cut or hold flat county property taxes for seven consecutive years. It’s something his potential opponents say has come at a cost to services. Here’s Jenkins.

“I’m running because in Westchester County right now we have a county executive that is Trump-like. We’ve gone through eight years of experience in having our finances cut to the bone,” Jenkins says. “We are living from day to day on a shoestring budget of kicking the can down the road, not taking care of the essential services and all the things that the people of Westchester expect and need.”

County Executive Astorino, who ran for governor in 2014, has said previously his focus is on the county level. Astorino has won decisively in a county where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. He has said he is keeping the door open for another gubernatorial run in 2018. Latimer, like Abinanti, says he is focused on the state budget and expects to decide in April about the county executive race.

“I represent a third of the county and I’m going to continue to be vigorous in my working my district, so that immediately puts me out and about in a pretty wide swath of the county, so I’m not standing flatfoot waiting for some action to happen on May 15,” Latimer says.

According to his spokeswoman, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano is undecided about a run. He is not related to Democrat Andrew Spano, unseated by Astorino in 2009.