By Dan Murphy
Westchester Democrats held their county convention last week and nominated New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson to face off against Republican incumbent County Executive Rob Astorino in November. The 2,000 delegates who attended the convention, held at the County Center in White Plains, also nominated incumbents Janet DiFiore for district attorney and Tim Idoni for county clerk.
But the race for county executive was the hotly-contested race at the convention, with Bramson, Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins and County Legislator Bill Ryan vying for the nomination. Both the Bramson and Jenkins camps were confident that they would win the night.
Fifty percent of the voting delegates present were required to win the nomination. Bramson almost won the convention on the first ballot with 49.53 percent of the weighted vote, totaling 217,000, compared to Jenkins’ 42.49 percent and Ryan’s 7.97 percent.
Ryan was eliminated from the second round of voting, which went 54 percent for Bramson and 45 percent for Jenkins. After the vote, Jenkins endorsed Bramson and county Democrats left in the wee hours of the six-hour convention united in their desire to defeat Astorino in November.
“We want to make sure County Executive Astorino goes into early retirement,” said County Democratic Chairman Reginald Lafayette
“The choice in this election is between a plan of action that honors the mainstream values of Westchester, or a record of neglect that honors only the extreme agenda of the Tea Party,” said Bramson, who thanked the delegates.
Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud said: “We congratulate Mr. Bramson on his nomination tonight and look forward to a healthy debate in the fall election season, based on the issues.”
Bramson’s victory was an effort over the past three months to pry the nomination away from Jenkins, who had a built a record of disagreement over county spending with Astorino over the past two years, and thanks to the support of Congresswoman Nita Lowey, New Rochelle Democratic Chairman Artie Klugman (who one Democrat told us was the best Democratic chairman in Westchester), Sen. George Latimer and Council President Chuck Lesnick, to name a few.
Westchester Congresswoman” Nita Lowey’s support was huge, and titled the balance for Bramson in the many Westchester communities she has represented over four decades. Many of the votes from the mid- and northern Westchester Democratic Committee came in with near 100 percent of delegates for Bramson.
Jenkins did well in Yonkers, with 27,000 of the weighted vote, with only 3,000 for Bramson. Five-thousand possible Yonkers delegates did not come and vote at the convention. Mount Vernon split its votes between Bramson and Jenkins, with supporters of Mayor Ernie Davis with Jenkins and supporters of former Mayor Clinton Young with Bramson.
The word before and after the convention was that Bramson was “more electable” than Ken Jenkins. What “more electable” means is up for debate.
Bramson has raised, and can raise considerably more than Jenkins could have, and about $2 million is the figure that both Bramson and Astorino will likely raise and spend in this race.
Jenkins had also turned off some Westchester Democrats with his combative style with Astorino over the past two years. And while Jenkins’ record on the county board of amassing contrasting views about how county government should fund and protect county residents will be used by Bramson, some believe Jenkins went too far in his opposition, and this opposition is why Bramson decided to get in the race.
We hope that “more electable” does not mean that an African-American cannot be elected in a county-wide race in Westchester, because we do not agree. A far more important decision will be who the Independence Party decides to endorse for county executive than the race, gender or sexual preference of any candidate. Westchester is well beyond that.
Many Democrats and Independents in Westchester will not vote for any Republican. Astorino got 8 percent of the vote on the Independence party line in 2009 against Andy Spano, and it was his margin of victory.
Jenkins must now decide what he will do next. He can run for re-election to the county board, or run for Yonkers City Council president. Many had hoped for an answer from Jenkins at the Yonkers Democratic breakfast last weekend, but Jenkins said he needed a couple of weeks to decide.
County Clerk Tim Idoni was unanimously nominated to run for re-election.
Let the campaign begin! Much more in the months to come.