A Rockland Democrat announced Wednesday that he plans to run for county executive, while a potential Republican candidate was noncommittal when asked about a published report saying he plans to do the same.
Legis. Ilan Schoenberger confirmed he will run, but Legis. Ed Day on Wednesday said only that he plans to make a "big announcement" in the near future.
They're the first two county politicians to publicly indicate interest in the county executive job. Republican County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef's term ends in 2013. After almost 20 years in office, he has said he would not seek another term.
Schoenberger, who has been an attorney for four decades and a county legislator since 1996, said he has the experience to lead the cash-strapped county forward.
"I know how county government operates and how it should operate," he said.
Schoenberger said he plans to make an announcement at a Dec. 6 fundraiser.
Day, a former county minority leader and a legislator since 2006, said he plans to make a "big announcement on Dec. 11," when he's scheduled to stage a campaign fundraiser.
He stopped short of saying he will run.
Earlier in the day, a Hudson Valley publication reported that Day had committed to the race. Day told Newsday the newspaper "chose to read between the lines and go with it."
"I have had a lot of people support me and tell me I should run," Day said. "It's something I've put a lot of thought into the last few months."
Whoever takes Vanderhoef's place will face a challenging situation: At a time when almost every county government has budget woes, Rockland County stands out for the severity of its fiscal situation.
The county faces a projected $43 million shortfall in County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef's proposed 2013 budget, and the budget gap is expected to widen in subsequent years as the county deals with ballooning pension and health care costs. Rockland plans to save millions by slashing positions and offering early retirement incentives, but that won't be enough -- county leaders have discussed raising sales and property taxes to make up the difference.
The county's bond status has been downgraded three times, county leaders have squabbled with their town and village counterparts over who should pay the tab on shared services and this year the county took the unusual route of creating a new tax on energy to try to help overcome its deficits.