Latimer vs Astorino: Westchester County Executive Candidates Clash in First Debate

From: lohud.com October 10, 2017

WHITE PLAINS - It didn’t take long for the gloves to come off in the first debate between Westchester County executive candidates Tuesday night.

Incumbent Rob Astorino portrayed challenger, state Sen. George Latimer, as a lawmaker poised to hike county property taxes while not paying his own. Latimer said Astorino budgets have the county on shaky ground and he compared his opponent's stance in an ongoing federal affordable-housing dispute to that of a segregationist.

The roughly 70-minute debate, hosted by the member organization the Business Council of Westchester at the Reckson Center on Hamilton Avenue, saw the candidates speaking over and at each other.

Astorino, a Republican seeking his third term, said he was elected to "stop the tax madness" and would continue to keep the tax levy flat if re-elected. He said Latimer, a Democrat, had raised taxes as a state legislator and, before that, as a county lawmaker.

"You go in the other direction, you know what you're going to get," Astorino said. "You're going to get the tax increases he gave you as a county legislator, you're going to get the litany of taxes he supported and voted for in Albany and you're going to get that mindset that the taxpayer doesn't really matter."

But Latimer said Astorino hollowed out county services by reducing staff and kicked the can down the road by balancing budgets through borrowing and one-shot revenues.

 

“As much as I’d like to think that this is morning in America, it isn’t," Latimer said. "We’re in a very dangerous situation and in the next four years, the decisions we make in the next four years will drive the train in the correct direction and the appropriate direction."

Tax issue a focus

Astorino hit Latimer over $46,000 in unpaid property taxes on a Rye home owned by Latimer's wife.

“Here’s the issue, George, because you don’t get to play the victim on this," Astorino said. "We all have to pay our taxes. There’s no special break for Albany politicians.”

Latimer attempted to distance himself from the property, saying his taxes were paid up on his primary home, also in Rye.

 

He took issue with Astorino bringing up the unpaid taxes, referring to it as part of a family dispute that arose after his mother-in-law, the former owner of the property, died in 2012.

"I didn’t realize the path to the governorship goes through the gutter," said Latimer, who several times painted Astorino as less interested in the county than running for state governor in 2018. Astorino previously ran for governor against Andrew Cuomo in 2014.