Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R-Mount Pleasant) and his challenger, State Sen. George Latimer (D-Rye), painted stark pictures of the direction Westchester is headed on Tuesday night.
Who will you be voting for in the 2017 Westchester County Executive race?
The two met in the second of three planned debates at Murphy Auditorium at Iona College in New Rochelle. Astorino is running for a third term.
At times, the crowd was the star of the debate often booing and yelling at both candidates. Latimer received chants of "pay your taxes" while Astorino was booed when he attempted to express his support for the immigrant community in Spanish.
Astorino made the fact that a home in Rye owned by Latimer's wife owes $46,000 in back taxes a frequent issue. Latimer's taxes was the first question asked to the candidates.
Latimer said it was a family dispute and that he does not own the house.
"I co-own one property and the taxes are fully paid," Latimer said. "He's feeling desperate."
Astorino said most people don't get to make a phone call to Rye City Hall and ask for special treatment.
"If anyone else went five years without paying taxes, the house would've been taken years ago," Astorino said. "You owe this money to your neighbors and the schoolchildren."
Astorino was asked about President Donald Trump, whom he supported when he wrapped up the Republican primary. Astorino said he didn't agree with everything George W. Bush or Barack Obama did, and it's the same with Trump
"When he made comments about immigrants, I denounced him vociferously Astorino said. "If George Latimer wins, Donald Trump will still be president while George Latimer will raise your taxes."
Latimer said Astorino supports Trump's immigration policy and mentioned the time Astorino defended Trump's comments against MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski, a Bronxville resident.
"He is not some progressive Republican," Latimer said. "He believes what Donald Trump believes."
As county executive, Latimer said Astorino has cut police, decimated the Department of Public Works and balanced the budget through gimmicks and one-shots. Astorino pointed to his endorsements from police unions and labor unions.
Astorino said he wants to spend his third term keeping taxes low and attracting more development to Westchester. Astorino, who ran for governor in 2014, said the state remains in terrible shape.
"We are losing population and losing business," Astorino said. "But there are 12 people on the Republican side who exploring a run and that's a good thing. I would support the most qualified candidate."
Latimer said within a month of his re-election, Astorino will be upstate beginning a gubernatorial campaign.
"(Deputy County Executive) Kevin Plunkett should be the person I'm debating," Latimer said. "He'll be the one running the county."
Astorino said raising taxes is a lazy way to run government and noted how the county tax levy has been reduced since he took office along with reducing the county workforce.
"We have streamlined county government," Astorino said. "We thought outside the box. Going to the taxpayer was the old way of doing things. It drove people out."
Latimer noted the county was rated 53rd by the comptroller's office for fiscal stress out of 57 counties and that Moody's recently downgraded the county's credit rating.
"He has mismanaged county government," Latimer said. "The big picture is a disaster."
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