Westchester Power Shift Solidifies

Rob Astorino won re-election in November by almost the same large margin that first made him Westchester County Executive in 2009. But voters also returned the 10-7 Democratic majority to the Board of Legislators, seeming to set up another term of divided legislative priorities and costly lawsuits.

Kaplowitz and Maisano flank Astorino signing 2013 budget.
Kaplowitz and Maisano flank Astorino signing 2013 budget.

Except that Democratic majority has been in name only ever since two Democrats from opposite ends of the county — Mike Kaplowitz and Virginia Perez — signed on to Astorino’s 2013 budget over a year ago. That’s when Board Chairman Ken Jenkins flipped out the lights and Republican Jim Maisano picked up the gavel. Kaplowitz and Perez were shut out of caucus meetings after that, and control of the Board of Legislators was left in limbo during the 2013 election year (though the Dems ran a unified slate, with Kaplowitz and Perez both publicly supporting Noam Bramson over Astorino).

But the minority party has now officially taken over, with the seven Republicans and two rogue Democrats creating a governing majority. Kaplowitz was installed yesterday as Chairman, while Maisano was selected as Vice Chair.

Astorino’s policies will gain the sheepskin of bipartisanship; but he effectively rode that message anyway before this realignment was official. The pushback from the Dem legislators will now sound even more shrill, as is always the case from a party out of power; but neither the Jenkins lawsuit strategy nor the Bramson values strategy left any mark on Astorino’s shine. The new leadership positions for Kaplowitz and Maisano just solidify the reality already decided on November 5, when Democrats failed to beat Astorino or pick up an extra seat in the legislature.