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Westchester County Dems, Republicans a study in contrasts
Politics has always been a study in contrasts.
In Westchester County, where the biggest race of the year will pit Republican County Executive Rob Astorino against one of three Democrats vying for the party's nomination, the contrasts have been peculiar.
Two recent political events highlight the differences between our local version of the red-blue divide: Astorino's Winter Celebration fundraiser and a Victory Breakfast where Westchester Democrats rejoiced at trouncing Republicans in the 2012 elections. Their efforts helped President Barack Obama win one of the wealthiest counties in the country and sent every GOP candidate for the state Legislature packing, except Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson), a charismatic pol who supports gun ownership.
Astorino's Feb. 7 fundraiser attracted donors who forked over as much as $5,000 to have a drink in a separate VIP room at the DoubleTree Tarrytown. Astorino has raised more than $2 million, so he obviously possesses a keen understanding of the value of a cocktail in a special hotel function room.
Others who gave, say, $2,500 were admitted only to a dinner in a larger hall, to eat what amounted to very expensive chicken and steak tips.
Here's the surprise: Bankers and white-shoe lawyer types were nowhere to be found at the Republican event. I tried to chat up a guy wearing a bow tie and tortoise-shell glasses, but he eluded me.
Otherwise, a random list of encounters included a very nice family whose son worked for Astorino for months as a volunteer before he landed a job with the county, an Indian-American engineer who said his wife was liberal, the dapper owner of a bus line with county contracts who also owns two posh restaurants on the Hudson River in Hastings-on-Hudson and Dobbs Ferry; and two members of the Teamsters who belong to the Conservative Party. One union man wore a hefty gold chain, which accented his pompadour nicely.
Now let's review the Democrats' event.
It took place at the VIP Club on Long Island Sound in New Rochelle. About 500 people, perhaps twice as many as were at Astorino's fundraiser, enjoyed ham and eggs in a palatial function room that would suit the first wedding of a sheik's eldest son. It's not an exaggeration to say the event recalled the setting of “The Great Gatsby” -- although the snow was too deep for anyone to venture outside to gaze longingly at a distant green light.
As New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, Board of Legislators chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) and Legis. Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) worked the crowd to further their bids for the county executive nomination, a DJ spun funky licks a bit too loudly.
Women were decked out in fur coats, high heels, short skirts and sleek stockings on sleek legs. Lots of them. Oh, and these ladies had visited the hairdresser.
The men sported nice suits with red velvet kerchiefs tucked nattily their breast pockets. Among them, the typically dapper Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis. (As Newsday recently reported, the man owns a small real estate empire.)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's closest lieutenant, Larry Schwartz, delivered opening remarks. Sure, Schwartz left early to take his daughter to a dance recital, but the point is, whether these people were real power brokers or not, they knew how to act like power brokers.
Only the deepest Republican pockets made it into the VIP room, but every Democrat got to chow down in the VIP Club.
Which maybe tells us something about what the two parties think of people.