PORT CHESTER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was a stunning upset in the race for Westchester County executive Tuesday night, as incumbent Rob Astorino lost to Democratic state Sen. George Latimer in a race that wasn’t even close.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, Latimer won with 57 percent of the vote, compared with 43 percent for Astorino. He was greeted with hugs and handshakes outside the Port Chester Senior Center just hours after the celebration for his shocking win.
Latimer defeated the powerful incumbent Astorino in what was supposed to be a very close race.
“I was very surprised,” Latimer said. “We had no idea we would by this amount. I was as stunned as anybody was to see the margin.”
But Latimer has never lost an election. His record is a perfect 18- in his three-decade political career.
The 63-year-old, married former marketing executive from Rye started out as a Rye city councilman. He then served 13 years as a Westchester County legislator and 13 as a New York state senator.
Political analysts say strong voter turnout – especially among anti-Trump Democrats and independents – was to credit for Latimer’s victory in the county executive race.
“On the issues, in fact, Rob Astorino was winning,” said Iona College political science professor Jeanne Zaino. “It was this anti-Trump message that people on the ground in an off year election — you don’t get many people out — wanted to send.”
Latimer said Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor in 2014, outspent Latimer by a four-to-one margin. Some of that money was used for negative attack ads – one of them claiming, “George Latimer failed to pay his own taxes but never failed to raise ours!”
The allegation was that Latimer owes $46,000 in property taxes on a house in Rye that was owned by his late mother-in-law, and is now part of her disputed estate.
“It’s very hurtful,” Latimer said. “When people attack you; they say you’re a deadbeat and you don’t care about things – or all these awful things – it’s a very difficult as a candidate to soldier through that.”
Astorino now says he will do all he can to help smooth Latimer’s transition to the county executive’ office in White Plains in January.
“George and I have been friends for quite a long time, and served together as well,” Astorino said, “and in the heat of an election, you know, we’re glad we’re at this point. Now we can go back to being friends.”
Once he takes over, Latimer wants to focus on more than just property taxes in the highest-taxed county in the nation.
“Taxes are important — maybe the single most important issue,” Latimer said. “But jobs are important. Economic development is important. Transportation is important. Quality of life is important.”
Some people fear those priorities could cost taxpayers even more.
Meanwhile, Zaino said the surprise loss severely damages any hope that Astorino had of running against Cuomo again.