Lead Stories, Politics

Latimer grabs Independence Party endorsement

The Independence Party has endorsed state Sen. George Latimer in his bid for county executive.

Latimer, a Rye Democrat, is expecting to take on two-term incumbent Rob Astorino, a Republican, in November’s county executive race. And the support of the Independence Party has often been an indicator of electoral success in Westchester.

Latimer, who has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party, said he was pleased to have the support of the Independence Party.

“I think it’s an indication of the strength of my campaign,” he told the Review. “The Independence Party could have chosen anyone… and they chose me.”

State Sen. George Latimer, who received the official nomination of the Westchester County Democratic Committee last month in his bid for county executive, now also has the support of the county’s Independence Party. Photo/ Jen Parente

Latimer had previously been endorsed by the party in his races for county legislator and state Assembly between 1998 and 2010, but never received the party’s support during his time in the state Senate.

Last November, in his most recent re-election to the state Senate, Latimer was passed over by the Independence Party line in favor of his opponent, Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican. The Independence Party also supported Latimer opponents Bob Cohen, a Scarsdale Republican, in 2012 and Joe Dillon, a Yonkers Republican, in 2014.

Latimer won all three of those contests, and in recent years the party’s credibility has been called into question.

Astorino has also had his problems with the party. In 2009, after winning the county executive seat from then-County Executive Andy Spano, a Democrat, in which Astorino was endorsed by the Independence Party, he accused party Chairman Giulio Cavallo of seeking patronage jobs for members of his party.

In his bid for re-election in 2013, Astorino lost the party’s support but was still victorious in becoming the only Republican ever elected to the Westchester County executive’s office without carrying the Independence line, by cruising past his opponent, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat.

Bill O’Reilly, campaign manager for Astorino, said the county executive didn’t even seek the Independence Party’s backing this year.

Even so, Astorino has been highly successful in a county where his voting bloc is at a decided disadvantage. According to voter registration numbers compiled by the county Board of Elections, Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by more than 2-to-1, approximately 278,000 to 130,000.

The Independence Party, which is the third largest political party in the county, makes up about 4 percent of the total number of registered voters in Westchester with 21,555.

And although Latimer has also received the official support of the Democratic Party, he will likely have to win that party’s primary election in order to appear on the November ballot.

Following last month’s county Democratic nominating convention, Latimer won more than 70 percent of the vote against county Legislator Ken Jenkins, a Yonkers Democrat. But even in defeat, Jenkins has remained steadfast in his desire to challenge Latimer in a Democratic September primary for the right to carry the line in the general election.

The Westchester County executive is elected to a four-year term and receives an annual salary of $160,144.

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