Tensions Rise At Cohen-Latimer Rye Brook Debate

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State Senate candidates for the 37th District, George Latimer and Bob Cohen held a debate Tuesday night in Rye Brook.
State Senate candidates for the 37th District, George Latimer and Bob Cohen held a debate Tuesday night in Rye Brook. Photo Credit: Anna Helhoski

RYE BROOK, N.Y. – The contentious race between Republican Bob Cohen and Democrat George Latimer reached a fever pitch during a debate in Rye Brook Tuesday night that focused primarily on jobs, property taxes, and health care in Westchester County.

 “It is not hyperbole to say this race in the 37th District may, indeed, decide the balance of power in the New York State Senate,” said Moderator Steve Scott of WCBS Radio at the debate, sponsored by the Westchester County Association and held at 800 Westchester Ave.

Latimer, a Democratic Assemblyman for the 91st District; and Cohen, a Republican businessman, are running for the 37th District seat of retiring state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer. Cohen is making a second run for the seat, after losing to Oppenheimer in 2010.

The 37th encompasses Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, New Castle, New Rochelle, Scarsdale and White Plains. The hotly contested race is viewed as pivotal in deciding which party controls the state Senate in the next legislative session.

Scott asked the candidates what they planned to do to bring more jobs to Westchester County.

Latimer said that since the county is competing against Connecticut and New Jersey, financial incentives must be put on the table to attract companies to the area.

Cohen, meanwhile, argued that property taxes need to be lowered because they are the number one element driving people and businesses out of Westchester. Cohen also brought up the fact that Latimer did not vote for the 2 percent property-tax cap, which was introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and passed last year.

Latimer defended his action, as he has done before, arguing he did not vote on principle. “The tax cap can work with mandate relief now, not future mandate relief,” said Latimer, adding that mandate relief and a pension cap at a state level will bring property-tax levels down.

Scott also asked how the candidates would plan to keep young medical professionals in Westchester County, when so many are leaving for areas with lower medical malpractice insurance.

Latimer said the cost of medical malpractice insurance is “phenomenal.” He said that rates need to be lower for responsible practitioners, likening the issue to car-insurance rates for drivers.

Cohen raised the tension levels by claiming Latimer’s response was evasive and more “Albany-speak.” After a brief argument between the two, Cohen reaffirmed that he was very much in favor of lowering insurance rates for medical malpractice to get younger doctors to stay in New York State.  

Scott also asked what each candidate would do to create jobs for Westchester County’s skilled labor force. Cohen said he supports the rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge, but said the state needs to do more to replace other crumbling roads and bridges.

“I’m willing to say we need to borrow today to invest in New York for the future of our children,” said Cohen. When Scott asked him if the state can afford to borrow in this difficult economic time, Cohen responded, “Can we afford to let our roads continue to crumble? … I don’t believe we can. I believe we need to have a good infrastructure to attract businesses.”

Latimer jibed Cohen, saying he is out of touch with the current political efforts to replace infrastructure and create jobs, referencing Cuomo’s “New York Works” program. “What happens is, if you don’t know the things that are happening, you think they need to be created,” said Latimer. “We need to stand behind those programs and reinforce them.”

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I don't know Bob Cohen. I have never heard him speak. But what I have gotten is the deluge of trashy negative mail he and his "PACs" from NY area and also out-of-state have sent around lately. It is a total turnoff and he should be ashamed of himself. ANd the fact so much comes from national PACS should be a sign in itself there is more to the story here than just a local election.

I am not registered in either party but I do typically vote Democrat for national-level offices. I have lived in Larchmont 25 years and have had George Latimer represent my district in County and more recently State positions for a long time. I have met him a number of times and attended some of the coffee gatherings he hosts for constituents at local diners over the years. Like many of my neighbors here in Larchmont, I take the view: Why would anyone think of voting for anyone else? George is honest, sincere, and non-ideological/ pragmatic. He cares, he works hard, he is one of us. I have been happy to know he is representing my district and I trust him to evaluate things that affect us fairly and to vote intelligently for pragmatic solutions. ANd yeah, maybe sometimes the pragmatic solution means a small tax increase once in a while to fund rising expenses. THat is how life works, sorry: We are funding more stuff: We need to pay for it.

I read some of the spew-y garbage that COhen's campaign and allies send around and it seems to be talking about an alien. Has Latimer missed some votes ? Yeah, sure ! I assume there are many days where there are dozens of votes in one day, and some of those probably are for issues relating to declaring "domestic dog day" in Oswego or some other place none of us care about. So who cares if he went to the rest room for that one? I don't ! Maybe he was sick some days...aren't we all? What was the number of votes he has missed ? 70 ( I threw out the nasty card with this --maybe have the figure wrong) out of thousands over years ? Sounds good to me...

I have personally attended public information/ discussion gatherings Latimer has hosted at the "Nautilus" diner in mamaroneck. I have always appreciated his openness and frankness in telling constituents how it is ... what "flies" in COunty and State assemblies and what has run into flak ... Is this one of the "taxpayer funded meals" ? Fine! THe internet says salary for State Assembly is something like 80k. I am HAPPY if the state gives a budget for assemblymen to meet constituents at restaurants. Has he abused this at our expense? I can't answer for sure either way, but I do know if I or any readers here wonder and have questions about it, they can email Latimer directly and I am pretty sure he will come back with a direct and honest answer. That is the way he is. Ask him yourself ! About anything!
Cohen, whoever he is, has presented me with nothing other than a huge turnoff with his mountains of negative mail. WHy would I even listen to a guy like that ? I wish I could put him on my 'do not send me mail' list.

Cohen looked very competent up there while Latimer looked like he'd promise you the world for a vote, like a slick politician and we have too many slick politicians already in Albany.

Latimer seems out of touch with his own party (especially Gov. Cuomo) & the direction NYs moving in by not supporting & voting for such things as the tax cap & the new pension tier. He's got reasons but they seemed more like excuses that will lead to inaction and we action.

Latimer also claimed to be for repeal/revision to the Triborough Amendment which continues a contract's terms while a new contract is being negotiated, but that statement doesn't seem realistic considering the state teacher's union is donating money to his campaign.

The candidates also differed on tort reform; Cohen favors limiting court settlements while Latimer does not. These are the settlements (because there's no limit on the amount you can sue for) that are driving our insurance premiums to the highest in the nation. The question was actually on the high cost of Medical Malpractice Insurance & the reasons why many doctors don't want to practice in NY.

I give the debate to Cohen for his honesty and candid remarks and Latimer came off as a well versed career politician.