Voters sent a loud message Tuesday in Westchester County. In a contentious county executive race that was considered a dead heat, Democratic New York state Senator George Latimer defeated Republican incumbent Rob Astorino by a much wider margin than polls predicted. Democrats also won several other local races.
Unofficial Westchester County Board of Elections figures show Latimer winning with 57 percent of the vote. Latimer took the lead early with a double-digit margin that did not substantially tighten as the night continued.
“We’re 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 going to know more than just taxes. We are going to be about jobs, about housing, about transportation, about health care, and taxes,” Latimer says. “We’re going to show you in Westchester what we’re going to show you in the nation in three years — how to run America the right way.”
Astorino delivered a brief concession speech with no reference to national politics.
“George and I have been friends for quite a long time, and served together as well. And in the heat of an election, we’re glad we’re at this point. Now we can go back to being friends,” Astorino says. “And I look forward to working with him and his team to ensure a very smooth transition in January.”
Astorino became county executive by defeating Democrat Andrew Spano in 2009. Latimer hugged Spano upon declaring victory. Astorino acknowledged cross-party support for his decisive wins the past two terms in a county where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2-1. Astorino declined interviews following his concession speech. Campaign spokesman William O’Reilly says Republicans fell victim to anti-Donald Trump sentiment.
“This was a bit of a tsunami and it’s a bit of a response maybe to the 2016 election. And that happens,” O’Reilly says. “It ain’t beanbag, and so we’ll wish the victors well and dust off and be back for something else another day.”
Astorino, who ran against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, was seen as a potential candidate in 2018 prior to Tuesday’s loss. O’Reilly, who served on Astorino’s 2014 gubernational campaign team, says Astorino could return to politics, but not necessarily in this vein.
“Oh I don’t think he’s even thinking about that right now. I mean, the concentration has been on county executive,” says O’Reilly. “And also it looks like there’s going to be a stampede of candidates next year for the Republicans, so I don’t know if it’d be something he’d be interested in or not.”
“So I think, if he chooses to, he’s definitely got a future in politics. He may go back to radio he’s originally a radio guy.”
Meantime, Latimer’s 37th Senate seat will be open in a district he says leans Republican.
“I think the Democratic party now, in due time, not tomorrow, starts the screening process for candidates for what we assume will be a special election. I’m certainly going to be helping the Democratic candidate as much as I can,” says Latimer. “I know the 37th District like I know how to spell my name. I know which senior centers operate on which days. And I’m certainly going to be helpful in every way I can to the Democratic candidate.”
City of New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, who lost to Astorino in 2013, says Latimer’s win helps take some of the sting out that loss. Bramson says Latimer will bring unity in the county.
“How excited are we to have a county executive who knows it is time to stand up to Donald Trump and not buckle under to the right-wing that’s going to take us in the wrong direction nationwide,” Bramson says.
Voters also tipped the scales further in Democratic favor on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, where there is now a super-majority. Democrat Catherine Borgia, who was often at loggerheads with Astorino, won reelection.
“I don’t know if it was an anti-Trump message so much as it was a Democratic surge where people decided that Democratic values really mean something in a Democratic county. And, quite frankly, the Democratic values are of the people and by the people and for the people, and that’s what we need in America right now versus the divisiveness and the hate and all of the things that we’re seeing right now at the national level,” says Borgia. “So we’re starting here in Westchester and thank God we are.”
Meanwhile, Democrat Robin Lois eked out a win by less than 1 percentage point over Republican incumbent Jim Coughlan for Dutchess County comptroller. And Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day were reelected. Both faced challenges by political newcomers.