The most important election of 2017 for New York is likely going to be the race for Westchester County Executive. Democratic State Senator George Latimer announced last week that he’ll face off against the incumbent, Republican Rob Astorino, in November.
Latimer launched his campaign criticizing Astorino for borrowing to pay for pensions rather than raising property taxes. Since few people like paying taxes, that’s going to be an argument Astorino is likely eager to fight. It’ll be a tough race.
The Playing Field and Why the Westchester County Executive Race Matters
Though Westchester Democrats outnumber Republicans, the county can go either way in elections. Latimer, a moderately progressive Democrat, has won a series of competitive campaigns for his Senate seat, which covers about a third of Westchester. Astorino is a generally conservative Republican who lost in his first bid for County Executive in 2005 but then rode Republican waves to strong victories in 2009 and 2013.
Astorino ran for Governor against Cuomo in 2014 and though he lost, is rumored to be planning on running again. Latimer’s challenge will get in the way of that. Even if Astorino wins, Latimer will keep Astorino from campaigning for Governor and raising the money he’d need to pose a competitive challenge to Cuomo. And if Astorino loses, his Gubernatorial dreams will go up in smoke.
Latimer’s campaign also poses some complications. As a Senator, he’s next up for re-election in 2018 and so doesn’t have to give up his seat to run. However, if Latimer does win, he’d have to vacate his Senate seat and that would pose a challenge for Senate Democrats. Though there are 32 registered Democrats in the Senate to 31 Republicans, nine Democrats (mainly in the Independent Democratic Conference) are aligned with the Senate Republicans. It would be more difficult for Democrats to win back that body if they have to help someone new win back Latimer’s seat.
While only Westchester votes get a say in this election, the results will resonate in both the 2018 Governor’s race as well as the fight for the state Senate.
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