Friday, May 24th

County Executive George Latimer Explains What He Can Do For You in Washington

LatimerConstituentsWestchester County Executive George Latimer is a familiar face around town – showing up at Scarsdale events and supporting the Village in many ways. Now he is vying to move his office from White Plains to Washington D.C. by challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman for representation of New York’s 16th Congressional District. The hotly contested seat is being watched locally, around the state and even nationwide. The election will be held on Tuesday June 25, 2024, and since the district leans Democratic, the winner of the primary will be the front runner in the general election in November.

We asked Latimer why he decided to run and for his views on a wide range of issues and here is what he shared:

Tell us how you will leverage your years of experience to be effective in Congress.

I am a lifelong Westchester resident who has built a career in public service by delivering unparalleled progressive results for local residents. I have a track record in making Westchester the most progressive County government in the state including successfully cutting regressive taxes, fighting for civil rights and racial equality, defending a woman’s right to choose, standing up to the NRA to keep guns off our streets, voting for marriage equality, and smartly investing a Green New Deal style infrastructure projects across the County.

I can deliver in Congress because I know how to build coalitions, find common goals, and win tough fights. That’s how we flipped Westchester, a formerly solid Republican County, into a blue firewall that has withstood multiple red waves in recent years. It’s how we’ve governed, it’s how I kicked the gun shows out of the County center, it’s how we defended reproductive health clinics when they were under attack.

Why did you decide to challenge a Democrat incumbent for his seat in Congress?

My opponent spends too much time on divisive rhetoric, alienating the people he is supposed to serve, and votes against the interests of our district. He voted against President Biden’s infrastructure bill, he voted against the debt ceiling, he even voted this year to shut down the federal government. That’s not governing. And at the same time, he’s been caught in scandal after scandal, and has been forced to walk back comments on 9/11 truther conspiracies, his embrace of known Anti-Semites, and his words falsely accusing rape victims of making up propaganda.

Right now, our democracy is under attack. We need to elect people who are ready to make the tough choices needed to govern, to keep our government functioning, to serve all of their constituents. Through my three decades of public service, my work has been defined by my deep commitment to local community needs, and my ability to deliver real results for the constituents I represent. From my tenure on the Rye City Council to the County Legislature to the State Legislature and my current role of Westchester County Executive, I am a proud progressive champion who fights for the rights of all people while passing smart, effective policies that make a real difference in people’s lives.

On what issues do you and your opponent most disagree?

As I said, he voted against infrastructure funding for Westchester County (although he then took credit for the funds he tried to block), he voted to shut down the government, he voted against the debt ceiling. I would not. He has engaged in promoting baseless conspiracy theories and false narratives about the victims of the 10/7 terrorist attacks. I would not. And he is of course openly hostile to Israel and favors capitulation to terrorists, while I favor a 2-state solution and a return of hostages as a condition of stopping the fighting.

I have been working as a public servant for more than 30 years, improving the quality of life of the people I serve in Westchester County. From securing millions of dollars in infrastructure to supporting abortion rights, reducing gun violence, building more affordable housing, to strengthening our democracy, I am committed to go to Washington to fight for what’s really important – the families of working New Yorkers.

How has redistricting in NYS affected your campaign?

While the Westchester portion of the district remains the same, there are some minor changes to the Bronx portion so it now includes Bronx families in Wakefield, Baychester and Co-op City. I need to introduce myself to those voters and we’ll be organizing aggressively through those regions and across the entire district. I’ve already started meeting with residents, community leaders, faith leaders and others to hear their concerns, I have made it clear that I will re-open the Bronx constituent services office that the incumbent closed down after taking office, and my track record on education funding, tenant’s rights, infrastructure, reproductive rights, transit and common sense gun laws all resonate well with voters there.

Why is the critical election the primary in June rather than the general election in November?

As with many districts in New York, the 16th CD has an overwhelming Democratic enrollment edge and the primary is the only place where an incumbent can be held accountable for his votes and actions as a public official. Many politicians, like my opponent, feel that they are above being challenged and deserve to be returned to office automatically; I believe that elections are an important place for voters to have choices about who represents them.

With these uncertain times, where a woman’s right to choose and plan a family hangs in a balance, hate crimes are rising, guns are far too available to those who should never have them, we need someone who can bring our communities together and vote for the things we need in Washington.

Tell us about the differences between running for County Executive and US Congress? Are you hearing from people all over the country?

As the first Democratic Chair of the County Legislature, I cut property taxes three consecutive years while passing ground-breaking legislation including creating Westchester’s Human Rights Commission, passing Smoke Free Workplace Laws, Waste Haulers reforms, and establishing the first cable TV coverage of Board of Legislators meetings.

As a former tenant organizer, I was a leader on housing in the State Assembly, championed critical environmental issues, and he proudly voted to pass Marriage Equality, defend a woman’s right to choose, and keep dangerous guns off our streets. I also cosponsored the New York Health Act to bring universal health care to all New York residents. After several years in the Assembly, I won a tough battle to win a seat in the State Senate in November 2012, before defeating a MAGA Republican in 2017 to become the current County Executive.

With experience as both an executive and a legislator, I bring a unique set of skills and an understanding of legislative and governmental operations that will position me to deliver the funds and policies our district deserves.

In your mind, what are the key issues for voters in this race?

A. First, we must ensure that the economy is working for all New Yorkers. We need more jobs and more wealth building opportunities for everyone. I am committed to making college and career technical programs more accessible and affordable as well as expand support for solopreneurs and small business owners.

In addition, I am a supporter of a living wage for working Americans, and sensitive to the impacts of inflation on food, gas and other essentials on New York residents. If elected to Congress, I would support increasing the national minimum wage to $17 by 2028 in order to help the most vulnerable working people manage ever increasing costs.

B. Gun Violence. The surge in shootings in America is frightening. The number 1 cause of death in children is death by firearms. Locally, I have stood up to the NRA both in the legislature and as County Executive, passing legislation to ban assault weapons and implement universal background checks here in New York, and banning gun shows from County Property. Now we need national legislation to do the same, keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other dangerous individuals, shutting down the interstate trade in illegal gun trafficking, and banning ghost guns and bump stocks. I am committed to increasing gun back programs, fund more afterschool programs, and expand mental health services with our community centers. We need to strengthen partnerships with faith leaders and community organizers, and invest in grassroots organizations doing the hard work.

C. Safeguarding our rights and our democracy is vital right now. We live in uncertain times and our democracy and the great American experiment will be on the ballot, which is why we must all vote to re-elect the President and continue to undo the damage of the Trump administration’s stacking of the Supreme Court. We need to defend voting rights and fight all efforts at voter suppression and protect our elections from misinformation and manipulation. We must also restore abortion rights on a national level, comparable to what we have already done here in New York, to protect both those seeking abortion care and the health care professionals who serve them.

D. Climate. Climate change is an existential threat to our planet and our future, and we can no longer allow science denying extremists to control the debate. We need leaders who can pass a real Green New Deal that not only creates jobs, but also directly fights climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon while freeing us from dependency on fossil fuels.

E. Housing. As County Executive, I have been a leader in helping create affordable housing throughout a region with scarce housing options. Under my leadership, between 2018 and 2023, we have created 6,443 units of affordable housing in the County. Our aggressive affordable housing efforts continue with $5.7 million recently awarded for land acquisition to create 168 senior units, and I recently authorized the 2024 County Budget, which contains $100 million for additional new affordable housing. We have also sought innovative options for creating affordable housing for vulnerable members of the community, including the use of County property for future affordable units for LGBTQ+ seniors.

If you are elected, what would you advocate for to help local constituents?

Locally, we need increased school aid, increased housing support and NYCHA funding, further investments in infrastructure funding for our roads, bridges, transit, and anti-flooding systems. We need to invest in jobs and job training programs. And we need to protect Social Security and Medicare from republican attempts to gut these vital programs.

Do you think there is a chance to get back the deduction for state and local taxes for New Yorkers? Yes. Trump’s SALT tax hike on New Yorkers must be repealed, and I believe that our best chance of raising the SALT cap is to elect a Democratic majority to Congress and I would work to make that a reality.

Can the Federal Government help Westchester with environmental issues such as flooding?

Yes, the federal government is a key stakeholder to help Westchester mitigate environmental issues such as flooding. For example, currently, in the Village of Mamaroneck the Army Corps of Engineers is leading a $100M federally funded project to mitigate flooding along the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake Rivers, when severe damage was caused by Hurricane Ida. I would support more federal funding to remedy this and other flood mitigation projects. Federal "Superfund" money under the EPA has also been available for several decades to facilitate the cleanup of contaminated lands, these are the types of programs that I would strengthen and support continuing.

How can those who back you help with your campaign?

Anyone is welcome to join our growing grassroots campaign. Please visit https://latimerforny.com for information.

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