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Latimer Defeats Astorino in County Executive Race

George Latimer faces off against incumbent Rob Astorino in the race for Westchester County Executive.

 

Democrat George Latimer has come out on top in the heated race for county executive, unseating two-term Republican incumbent Rob Astorino. Many Westchester voters are glad the the election, which was characterized by rampant political mudslinging from both sides, has come to an end. Along with Democratic sweeps in Virginia and New Jersey, Latimer’s 14-point victory in Westchester may signify future Democratic success in response to the Trump administration.

Taxes at the forefront

Taxes are one of the most prevalent issues that this year’s candidates are campaigning on. The cost of living in Westchester is notoriously high, so controlling tax rates is a central concern for voters on both sides of the aisle. One of Astorino’s biggest claims to fame throughout his years as County Executive has been his success in keeping the county tax levy from increasing. Unsurprisingly, this achievement is one of the centerpieces of Astorino’s 2017 campaign. For many voters in the know, it demonstrates Astorino’s competency at reining in spending and managing the government effectively.

Latimer has argued that Astorino’s claims of preventing tax increases is misleading, citing the fact that Westchester still has the highest property tax rate in the entire nation as evidence that Astorino has not, in fact, eased the financial burden on Westchester families.

Insults and scandals

Recent political mudslinging from both candidates has pushed the focus of this election into far uglier territory than tax rates. In recent anti-Latimer TV ads, Astorino has accused his opponent of failing to pay over $46,000 in property taxes, which Latimer denies. Latimer has accused Republicans of spreading rumors about his personal life to discourage voters from supporting him. Another scandal ensued when Astorino took tens of thousands of dollars from a locked reserve at the county airport to finance a campaign mailing. As much as we hope that our public officials can campaign honorably, it’s not exactly surprising that personal attacks like these have been launched. After all, New York State government is considered one of the most corrupt in the union.

Does Latimer have a chance?

Including his initial election to office in 2009, Astorino has successfully defeated Democratic challengers for two consecutive county elections. However, there is reason to believe that this time may be different, and Latimer has a considerable chance at ousting him from office. People familiar with local politics are watching closely for changes in Democratic voter turnout for the 2017 election. Past Westchester election turnout rates have been disappointingly low, but Democratic exasperation at the Trump administration (and, by extension, the GOP) may push voters to show up and support Latimer.

Despite the fact that Westchester registered Democrats significantly outnumber their Republican counterparts, Astorino has historically been able to capture the majority of the vote. Only time will tell whether Democrats feel politically galvanized enough by the Trump administration to participate in the local election en masse. Although Westchester’s demographics aren’t representative of our nation as a whole, the results of the Westchester election may be a good gauge for predicting the results of the 2018 gubernatorial election. If Latimer loses, it could be a sign that mainstream Democratic voters won’t be able turn the tables on Congressional Republicans in 2018.

There’s so much going on in politics at the national and international levels that it can be difficult for people to pay close attention to what’s happening in their local governments. However, it’s important to remember that local government maintains considerable influence, and that public officials at all levels must be held accountable to the people.

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