ARMONK, N.Y. – When Westchester residents enter poll booths Nov. 5, they will have to decide in which direction they want the county to go.
One path leads to four years of New Rochelle Mayor and Democrat county executive candidate Noam Bramson. The other adds four more years to County Executive Rob Astorino’s journey, which began in 2009.
“This [election] is about which path the county will go on,” Astorino said. “We can continue to go in direction people asked for four years ago when they asked me to make significant changes to how we spend, tax and protect our communities from aggressive federal government — or go back to where it was when consequences of tax increases were harshly felt and the answer to any problem was to throw more money at it.”
Astorino told The Daily Voice editorial team Tuesday afternoon he has not been surprised by the tone of the upcoming election — yet.
“It was a fairly quiet summer for the most part,” he said. “It wasn't until sometime in August that commercials started revving up. I’m not attacking him in any personal way — I don’t play that way. I don’t think it’s been terribly mean or nasty and hope it doesn't get that way. But it still could with less than two months to go.”
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee recently found several claims that some of Astorino’s campaign advertisements were unfair because they accused Bramson of raising taxes he had no control over and giving himself perks that were in place before he took office.
“He [Astorino] is making stuff up left and right,” Bramson campaign spokesman Barry Caro said. “It’s out of line and dishonest.”
Astorino stood by his claims and was surprised by the findings, calling them semantics.
“Are you [Bramson] or are you not receiving or taking, or using a car provided by the city? The answer is yes, it’s not even in question,” he said. “I’m not sure what it was that they found unfair about that. Whether or not he accepted a pay raise in his first year in office of forty percent is not a question. I’m not sure where these semantics come from. I don’t put much weight in an answer when it was factually correct.”
Astorino said he is, however, putting weight into Bramson’s public record as New Rochelle mayor, calling it “absolutely fair game.” In an August interview with The Daily Voice editorial team, Bramson said he encourages people to look at his resume as mayor.
“New Rochelle is microcosm of Westchester as a whole in terms of socioeconomic demographics, race demographics," Bramson said. "I have balanced a budget of $110 million, collaborated with hundreds of government employees and I have interacted with community members."
Astorino said the measures Bramson took to accomplish that budget lead to a “tax hell,” and compared a “One hundred and nine percent tax increase in New Rochelle across the board” to his campaign's efforts to lower the Westchester tax levy by 2 percent in the last four years.
“Contrast my record in four years versus my opponent’s in New Rochelle and it’s clear we’re on two different roads," he said. "People have to choose which road to go on.”
Bramson said his road takes a more balanced approach than his opponent’s on what he has called “the most ideological administration” of his lifetime. Caro called Astorino an “extremist.”
“Many people assumed that Rob Astorino would govern in a moderate, mainstream tradition like everyone else before him," Bramson said. "Instead, he campaigns like Nelson Rockefeller and governs like Newt Gingrich. He has run an intensely ideological and right wing administration.”
However, Astorino said Bramson is the one who wants to talk about national topics, such as abortion.
“That’s an issue he will talk about it because he can’t talk about his record in New Rochelle, and needs an issue he can talk about,” Astorino said. “All these national, divisive issues, hyper-partisan issues have nothing to do with our race. I am who I am; beliefs are what they are. But they have nothing to do with the race.”
Bramson and Astorino will get a chance to go head to head in person in their first debate Oct. 2 at the Reckson Metro Center in White Plains. The debate is sponsored by the Westchester Business Council and will be moderated by Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.