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‘The sixth borough’: How Westchester became a Democratic firewall in New York


The dichotomy in a number of the nation’s wealthiest and largest counties serves as a stark reminder that not all suburbs are the identical: New York’s Westchester County has change into a Democratic firewall in current years, boosting candidates working for state workplace and Congress and making it probably the most influential blue suburbs in the nation.

Even Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the pinnacle of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, gained Westchester by 20,000 votes — however still lost overall by 2,300 votes after being crushed in neighboring counties that went purple.

“Westchester is almost becoming the sixth borough” of New York City, mentioned Rob Astorino, its former two-term Republican county government who has since ran unsuccessfully for state Senate and twice for governor. “It’s becoming an extension, in some ways, of Manhattan. It’s that highly educated, affluent white liberal that bought houses at ungodly amounts of money, sight unseen, during the pandemic and thinks Republicans are the devil.”

Long Island and Westchester — with a mixed 4 million individuals throughout three counties — have lengthy been seen as battlegrounds for any candidate working for the House or statewide.

But Nassau and Suffolk have been shading purple in current elections. Republicans fared nicely in native races final yr, and this yr, all 4 House seats went to Republicans — together with two that had been held by retiring Democratic Reps. Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice in Nassau County. The wins propelled the GOP to House management.

Zeldin’s robust exhibiting on Long Island, which he represents in Congress, made it the closest governor’s race since 1994. He misplaced by practically 6 proportion factors to Hochul statewide, overpowered by her broad margins in New York City, Westchester and, to a lesser extent, the massive upstate counties of Erie, Monroe, Onondaga and Albany. But even her win in her dwelling county of Erie didn’t yield the margin she posted in Westchester.

Republican messaging on the excessive value of residing and crime in New York City resonated strongest out east on Long Island and north of town in Hudson Valley counties close to Westchester — resembling Rockland, Orange and Dutchess — the place Republicans gained two of three toss up House races.

But Westchester? New York’s purple ripple took a detour across the county, whose 1 million residents make it extra populous than seven states. All of its Democratic House members gained, together with all of its state legislative candidates. Hochul gained the county by 67,000 votes.

When President Joe Biden stumped with Hochul two days earlier than Election Day, he did so in Westchester — a bid to drum up support among the many social gathering’s base in a state with twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

“I think we’ve been able to find a balance between the far left and the moderate left,” mentioned Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a former state lawmaker who knocked off Astorino in 2017 by 15 factors and now works with a county Legislature in which Democrats maintain a 15 to 2 edge. Decades in the past, Republicans ran county authorities.

Perhaps no a part of the nation has seen a swing in voters as a result of Covid-19 pandemic greater than the New York City space, altering the face of the voters. The pandemic initially led metropolis residents to flee to the suburbs — extra to the Hudson Valley than Long Island — making it extra blue in some counties.

Over the previous three years, Westchester added practically 12,000 Democrats to its energetic enrollment rolls, a 4 % bounce. Nearby, Ulster County, dwelling to Woodstock, added practically 6,000 new Democrats over the identical stretch, a 12 % enhance. Ulster boosted the reelection of Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan, the previous county government, as the one Democrat in the area to win his House race.

Westchester — with a median family earnings of $97,000, $20,000 greater than than nationwide common — wasn’t all the time like this. In 1994, then-Sen. George Pataki beat Gov. Mario Cuomo there by 8,000 votes to drag off the gorgeous upset of the three-term governor. In Ulster, Pataki obtained 68 % of the vote.

“It’s completely different. There has been a turnover,” Latimer, who was first elected 35 years in the past to the Rye City Council, mentioned. “Long-time residents have packed up and moved to Florida, and they’ve been replaced by young professionals coming up out of the city or people moving in for corporate assignments in Westchester or the city — and they bring a different mindset.”

Add to that the county’s rising city areas of Yonkers, White Plains and Mount Vernon, and Democrats up and down the ticket are much less more likely to face stiff competitors in cities with robust social gathering machines. Transplants from Manhattan and Brooklyn have discovered Westchester interesting, resulting in a surge in new house buildings to lure younger professionals who’re nonetheless a few practice stops away from town.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, misplaced her first run for the chamber by 18 votes in 2004, then got here again and gained in 2006. She hasn’t had a shut race since. In 2019, she became the primary Black individual and girl chosen as majority chief.

“We’ve tried to meet the people where they are and offering solutions to the issues they are concerned about,” she mentioned of a average to progressive message that appears to work in the county. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do.”

Nassau and Suffolk counties have change into extra numerous, significantly with a rising Hispanic inhabitants, and the identical has occurred in Westchester. The counties, in contrast to many of the state, have had inhabitants will increase during the last decade.

But Democrats’ enrollment edge on Long Island is weaker than in Westchester, and average Democrats to the east usually tend to vote for Republicans, native officers mentioned.

Republicans spent closely in the New York City market on advertisements blasting Democrats for the rise in crime in New York City, the place many suburbanites work or often go to. And it hit dwelling on Long Island.

“When the electorate as a whole is so poisoned by the spending that tars Democrats so negatively, it’s going to have consequences, and among them was this,” mentioned state Democratic chair Jay Jacobs, who can also be the Nassau County chair. “Where they talk about there was no red wave nationally, in certain parts of New York state, including Long Island, you did see it.”

George Santos, a Republican who gained Rice’s seat in Nassau County, mentioned the social gathering’s message resonated — regardless of the enrollment disadvantages.

“Lee Zeldin would be governor if we had not suffered such a massive exodus due to the oppressive one-party rule coming out of Albany,” he mentioned, referring to retirement-age New Yorkers migrating south greater than any state in the nation.

In 2018, he famous, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, who gained a House seat this month, by 23 factors.

So for Hochul “to only beat Lee by 4 to 5 points is an actual statement that she is not being elected with a mandate,” Santos mentioned. “She was elected because she had the party enrollment advantage.”



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