George Latimer celebrated a win Tuesday night that earned him a trip back to Albany, this time as a state senator.
The newly elected Democrat beat challenger Republican Bob Cohen in a race marred by mudslinging and negative campaigning. Cohen conceded the race just before midnight. Latimer had received 47,862 votes 54 to Cohen's 39,771 with 260 of 318 precincts reporting as of 1 a.m.
"I was called a lot of things in this race," Latimer said during a rousing speech to jubilant crowd at the Colosseum in White Plains. "I was called public enemy No. 1. I was called a guy who missed meetings and didn't do his due diligence. But you know what? You can call me senator from now on."
Earlier in the day, Latimer had asked a White Plains judge to impound county voting machines in case the race was close enough to require a recount. Granted by the judge, the move is considered a precautionary measure to make sure the machines are ready in case either candidate challenged poll results.
"We have all worked so hard because we know George is the best person to serve," said state Sen. Andrew Stewart-Cousings, speaking to News12. "We had to make sure George got out there, told his story."
Cohen, 58, arrived to a GOP event at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains shortly after 10:30 p.m. with his wife and children. He was greeted by supporters and others who crowded around him in the ballroom, where about 200 Republicans had gathered.
But after the results showed the race slipping away, his optimism faded and supporters consoled him as the crowd thinned out.
Cohen, a New Rochelle resident, was making a second run at the seat. On the campaign trail, he has said he wants to reduce property taxes by eliminating unfunded state mandates and reforming Medicaid and other government programs, themes similar to those during his 2010 run for state Senate, when he came within 700 votes of beating Oppenheimer.
Latimer, 59, of Rye, is a veteran lawmaker backed by Oppenheimer and other Westchester County Democrats, including Ken Jenkins, the county's legislative chairman. He has said that he also wants to reduce the financial burden of mandates.
Republicans and Democrats have targeted the race with both big money and resources as part of a battle for control of the state Senate, where the GOP has a 33-29 advantage. Both campaigns have hammered away at each other in TV ads, robocalls and direct mailings, and third-party electioneering groups also have entered the fray.
Throughout the campaign, Cohen has criticized Latimer for voting against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2 percent property tax cap and pension reform legislation as a state assemblyman representing southern Westchester County. Latimer defended his votes, saying the reforms didn't provide enough relief for schools and local governments.
Latimer also defended his 2009 vote to approve the unpopular Metropolitan Transportation Authority commuter tax -- part of a bailout package to save the cash-strapped commuter rail system -- which Cohen has strongly criticized on the campaign trail.
Democrats responded with attacks on Cohen's record as a real estate developer, resurrecting claims made during his run for the Senate seat in 2010 that he is a "slumlord" who has been sued by New York City and his residents.
Both campaigns filed complaints against each other, alleging negative and misleading ads, with the 15-member Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee. It ultimately dismissed the complaints as normal "campaign rhetoric."
Oppenheimer has represented the 37th Senate District for more than 28 years. Like most other legislative districts in New York State, the 37th was reconfigured in the recent redistricting process and now consists of Bedford, Eastchester, Harrison, Mamaroneck, North Castle, Rye City, Rye Town, White Plains, parts of Yonkers and New Rochelle.
District 38: Carlucci and Castaldi
Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) won a second term representing the 38th District, which covers Rockland County and the Town and Village of Ossining in Westchester County. As of 1 a.m., he had 68,926 votes with 187 of 262 precincts reporting, compared with Republican challenger Republican Janis Castaldi, who had 28,709 votes.
"The things I said I would accomplish two years ago, I've done," he told News12. "We have to make sure there are quality jobs available in New York State. And that's what I'm working for."
At 31, Carlucci is the youngest lawmaker in the Republican-controlled state Senate. He's one of four members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which had criticized the chamber's Democratic minority for infighting and gridlock.
"It's been really exciting to see how many people came out to vote today. It just goes to show the resilience of the Hudson Valley," Carlucci said. "I'm just really blessed and honored to represent them and do everything to focus on policy and get them what they need when it comes to fair property taxes and jobs."
Self-described fiscal conservative Castaldi, 59, argued that Carlucci didn't have sufficient business experience. But the former deputy mayor and trustee in the Village of Ossining's arguments failed to sway voters.
Carlucci had raised $275,000 at the end of September, according to campaign finance reports. That dwarfed the $12,000 in Castaldi's campaign account, which doesn't include a $25,000 personal loan she gave her own campaign.
District 40: Ball and Wagner
In one of the Hudson Valley's most heated contests, state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) appeared to defeat challenger Justin Wagner with a vote tally of 53,230 to 49,281 with 248 of 278 precincts reporting.
"It's been a great race focused on the issues," said Ball. "I'm happy, extremely happy with my supporters. It's been a good fight. If you are a Republican fighting for working values and blue collar people, you can win."
However, Wagner's camp refused to admit defeat.
"The race is too close to call," said Wagner's campaign manager Steve Napier in a statement. "While all of the traditionally high-performing Republican areas have been fully counted, results in much of the traditionally Democratic areas of Westchester County have yet to be reported. We will pursue a full and fair count of all ballots."
A former state Assembly member, Ball, 35, won his Senate seat two years ago by a margin of 2,000 votes. Statewide redistricting of legislative seats this year made the 40th District, which sprawls over Putnam County and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties, slightly more Democratic.
Ball campaigned on keeping the Republican majority in the Senate to promote job creation and as a bulwark against tax hikes. Wagner, 31, a Croton-on-Hudson attorney, repeatedly attacked Ball for floating proposals that garnered headlines but weren't realistic as well as what he called Ball's "childish" campaign tactics.
District 41: Saland, Gipson and Di Carlo
As of 1 a.m., no one seeking the Senate seat in the newly drawn 41st District in Dutchess and Putnam counties had a majority of the vote.
Democrat Terry Gipson had 44 percent, with all of 269 precincts reporting. Incumbent Sen. Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) had 42 percent. And conservative challenger Neil Di Carlo had a 14 percent share.
A respected lawmaker in Albany for 32 years, Saland, 68, broke ranks with his party and voted to approve same-sex marriages. As a result, he lost the Conservative Party's endorsement to Di Carlo.
Brewster native Di Carlo, 43, works for a Manhattan securities company. He enjoyed the support of the tea party movement and other conservative Republicans, almost defeating Saland for the GOP's nomination in the primary election.
With Meghan E. Murphy and Sarah Armaghan