There are a number of local and county races today throughout the Hudson Valley. Orange, Rockland and Westchester Counties are picking county executives. And there is a comptroller race in Dutchess County. Plus, some local ballot questions pepper the region, including one in Orange County involving the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel.
Many eyes both inside and outside of Westchester are on the county executive race. Republican incumbent Rob Astorino, seeking a third term, is up against New York state Senator George Latimer, a Democrat. Astorino has won handily in the last two races in a county where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. Latimer says he has won his Republican-leaning 37th Senate district three times despite being outspent. Turnout will be a key factor in this odd-numbered election year. Astorino paints Latimer as a tax-and-spend progressive.
“One person who, if he’s given the keys here, has already mismanaged his own life and will do so for $1.8 billion budget,” Astorino said. “He has repeatedly raised taxes on all of us throughout his career and said he’ll do it again. We have held the line on taxes. I’ve stopped the tax madness because I know it is important in this county. People are struggling and that’s why I ran, and that’s why I’m still running.”
And Latimer ties Astorino, who ran for governor in 2014, to President Donald Trump whenever possible.
“Rob Astorino, if he wins, is certainly going to be running for governor. It’s obvious. He’s had meetings all across the state. It gets reported in statewide blogs. And, as I’ve said many times before, he’ll be in Oswego, Otsego and Owego long before we have our Christmas dinners at our respective homes,” Latimer said. “I intend to go in and work hard and do a good job. And, particularly, I intend to fight back against the Donald Trump policies.”
Both made their statements during a News 12 debate. The candidates have alleged wrongdoing against one another. Pundits say the effects of who wins this race will be felt in Albany, with Latimer’s GOP-leaning Senate seat possibly in question as Republicans have a slim hold on the Senate. Meanwhile, Astorino has not announced whether he will run a second time for governor, and how he fares in this race likely will determine that course.
In Orange County, incumbent Republican County Executive Steve Neuhaus is running for a second term against a political newcomer, Democrat Patrick Davis. Neuhaus, during one of the debates, echoed Ronald Reagan.
“I say, are you better off now than you were four years ago,” Neuhaus says. “When we were… four years ago when I ran, the government center was closed, with no end in sight. When I ran four years ago, the budget was not balanced and the revenues were overinflated. The budget is balanced now.”
Davis, a West Point graduate, believes Neuhaus lacks vision.
“Instead, we’re very complacent where we are, we’re very happy about where we’ve been, we know where we are, but we’re not looking forward, managing our risks and planning for a better future in Orange County,” Davis said.
Neuhaus touts the economic development projects and new businesses that have burgeoned under his leadership. He says he is keyed into what’s important to residents.
“I think, at the end of the day, if you look at everybody’s household, it’s how are they going to able to afford to live and how are they going to be able to afford to stay in Orange County,” said Neuhaus. “Are they going to have a job? Are the taxes going to be through the roof? That’s what matters to most people.”
“And I think I made it very clear what the differences between my approach to leadership and his approach to leadership, which I think he’s failed on several angles over the past four years.”
Davis resides in Monroe, where residents will vote on whether to allow Kiryas Joel to expand into the Town of Palm Tree, which would contain Kiryas Joel and 56 acres from Monroe. This referendum comes after Kiryas Joel officials and two groups — United Monroe and Preserve Hudson Valley— announced an agreement in July to allow the village to politically separate from the Town of Monroe.
Dr. Christopher Mann is assistant professor of political science at Skidmore College. He says that in some of the local races, political newcomers who are Democrats could be feeding off frustration with the Trump Administration and energizing voters.
“You’re getting Democrats who are angry and they want to do something about it,” Mann says. “And they’re starting local and they’re running for the offices that are right there in front of them.”
Plus, he says:
“We could see the Republicans have a penalty,” says Mann. “I don’t think it’s going to be massive, but in tight races between two quality candidates, even a small penalty for being associated with the president can matter a great deal.”
In Rockland County, incumbent Republican County Executive Ed Day is running for a second term. He faces Democrat Maureen Porette, an attorney and political newcomer. Also in Rockland, Day’s son, Republican Chris Day, is running for town supervisor in Orangetown against former supervisor Thom Kleiner, a Democrat. Chris Day had challenged Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey in 2014. Meantime, there are county legislator races throughout the Hudson Valley. And in Dutchess, there is a race for county comptroller that pits incumbent Republican James Coughlan against Democrat Robin Lois. Polls are open until 9 p.m.