Earlier tonight, I was honored to receive the Democratic nomination for Westchester County Executive.
Our victory at the Democratic convention is a credit to the hard work of an amazing campaign staff, dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and good friends. Catie and I could not be more grateful for all who labored on our behalf.
I am grateful also to Ken Jenkins and Bill Ryan, strong competitors, with whom it was an honor to share the campaign trail. Both were exceptionally gracious at the convention, and I am delighted to have their support.
Competing for the nomination has been an extraordinary experience, and we can take a moment to savor our success – but not more than a moment, because now the really tough challenge begins. To bring positive change to Westchester, we must win in November, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to justify the trust placed in me tonight.
I will have much more to say about this campaign in the weeks and months ahead. For now, I want to share with you the remarks I prepared to make tonight to accept the Democratic nomination (before the hour grew so late that I decided to spare the die-hard delegates and cut it down).
I know the hour is late, but I hope you’ll permit me to say a few words to this convention and to all the people of Westchester.
And I want to begin by recognizing two extraordinary public servants, two men who have proven their strength and skill and dedication to the values of our party, and who tonight showed the generosity of spirit and sense of common purpose that are the hallmarks of true leadership.
I ask every person in this hall to please stand – please stand up – and join me in saluting Ken Jenkins and Bill Ryan.
Ken and Bill, we began this journey as friends. We are ending this journey as friends. And, as we move forward together, I will be proud to call you partners.
To all who supported us tonight, and labored so hard for this milestone, Catie and I are honored beyond words by your trust.
And to all who supported others, please take well-earned pride in your service to a good cause.
We may have arrived here on different teams, but now – strong, united and determined – we go forth as one team.
And, together, for the hundreds of thousands of people who count on us to be their advocates and their champions, we will win a resounding victory this November.
My friends, that is much more than a partisan political objective. Because what’s at stake in this election is nothing less than the character, and the future, of our County.
And our choice this year is different from any we’ve faced before.
Here in Westchester, as long as any of us can remember, Democrats and Republicans have stood side by side to deliver good government – to provide value for our dollar, to strengthen public services . . . to invest in tomorrow.
These haven’t been partisan questions. We’ve never been a county of extremists or ideologues, on either the right or the left. We believe in balanced priorities, and we measure our actions by their practical effect on real people and real communities.
So when the people of Westchester elected Rob Astorino four years ago, many of us assumed that he would govern in that moderate, mainstream tradition.
Four years later, our eyes have been opened, and the hard truth is all too clear.
Rob Astorino may campaign like Nelson Rockefeller, but he governs like Newt Gingrich, and this is the most partisan, right-wing and short-sighted administration of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Rob. This isn’t about personal character. This is about the character of our leadership.
And he really believes the less we do, the better.
So there’s no strategy for growth, no goal for reforming government, no vision for expanding opportunity, no plan to cut waste, no effort at all to come to grips with the great challenges of land use, and transportation, and human capital that will define the future of our economy and environment.
And every one of us is paying the price in tax bills that go up, a quality of life that goes down, and opportunities that pass by.
This is a time when every public servant needs to rise to the occasion, and accept the full responsibility of their office. And we deserve a County Executive who will show up for work.
And there’s more. Because it’s not just the laws we pass, it’s also the values we uphold.
In this day and age, why on Earth does Westchester have a County Executive who won’t trust women to make their own decisions about reproductive health? Why does Westchester have a County Executive who thinks two committed adults should be denied their right to marry? Why does Westchester have a County Executive who can’t say – straight and plain – whether he supports common sense gun safety laws?
Those aren’t the values of this community.
And if every person in Westchester has full knowledge of the record, views and plans of the candidates, we will win this election in a landslide. We know this.
Problem is, our opponents know this, too. So they will try to win this campaign through fear and distortion.
If you doubt that for a second, just take a look at the State of the County Address that Rob Astorino delivered last night. The heart of the speech? A promise to fight tooth and nail against the quote-unquote “new” federal requirements for fair and affordable housing.
Now, you might ask, exactly what are these new requirements?
Well, to hear Rob tell it, it’s: 11,000 housing units, up from 750, at a cost of a billion dollars, paid for with a 200% tax increase, plus an end to all of our local zoning codes, so the feds can put a high-rise on every block. He really said this.
All very scary.
And all completely made up. Not a little made-up – like they kind of fudged it. Made-up, from beginning to end, from A to Z.
So while I’m sure we all appreciate Rob’s heartfelt pledge to protect us from this imaginary, make-believe threat.
Would it be too much to ask for a little calm, deliberative leadership to solve the actual problem that exists in the real world?
When you lose every court case, when your defiance and mismanagement is costing the County millions of our dollars, when editorial boards are comparing Westchester in 2013 to Alabama in 1963. When even the U.S. Attorney is threatening to hold you in contempt, then the last refuge of a political candidate is to scare people into voting against their own interests.
If this County Executive can’t offer the constructive leadership and sense of responsibility to finally get this expensive and divisive mess behind us, then please step aside for someone else who will.
On this issue, on every issue, we know we can do better. This isn’t rocket science.
Don’t tell me the only way to balance our budget is by cutting child care and neighborhood health centers.
Don’t tell me that a region with so many strengths can’t shape its own economic and environmental future.
We have no shortage of talent and creativity. All we’re missing is leadership, leadership equal to the task.
I’ve seen it.
As parents, Catie and I appreciate every day the difference that a healthy community makes in the lives of our children.
As a mayor, I brought people together to face tough challenges head-on, brought new investment and hope to a struggling urban center, and delivered millions in savings for taxpayers.
As a New Yorker, I was proud of our Governor for giving every one of us the right to marry.
As a citizen and a leader, I stand firmly in support of gun safety, and I will always fight for a woman’s right to choose.
And as County Executive, with your help, we will take action to grow our economy, create new jobs, end the waste and duplication in government, provide real leadership for taxpayers, and invest in our shared future.
The choice in this election is between a plan of action that honors the mainstream values of Westchester . . . or a record of neglect that honors only the extreme agenda of the Tea Party.
So I repeat. Four years later, our eyes have been opened, and the hard truth is clear.
But you know the old saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. And ladies and gentlemen, today, on behalf of all the people of Westchester, we say in a strong, clear voice: we will not be fooled again.
During the course of this campaign, many of you have heard me speak of my parents, who became refugees during the Second World War and then came to this country with almost nothing.
Of the sacrifices they made to give their four sons every opportunity to succeed. And of their profound gratitude for our nation’s freedoms.
My father died nearly twenty years ago. My mother is here tonight. And I am very proud of both of them.
But the truth is that, here in Westchester, there’s nothing remarkable about our family’s story, because there are so many other stories that are just as compelling.
The immigrants who work three jobs to give their kids a better chance.
The volunteers who devote untold hours to libraries, and parks, and soup kitchens and schools.
The doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists, who make Westchester a global icon of talent and culture.
And the men and women who do the people’s business, who keep our streets clean and safe, who respond bravely to emergencies, and accept the duties of defense, with solemn dedication and not an ounce of boastful pride.
All of us are Westchester. Each contributing to the whole. Going up or down together. And we deserve leadership that appeals to our best instincts.
I know we face big challenges today. But when I consider who we are, what we have done, and what we can do, I am filled with determination. And I cannot wait to get to work.
So with humility and gratitude, with a full and hopeful heart, and with faith that we will together shape a better future in which everybody has a chance to succeed and everybody counts, I accept your nomination for Westchester County Executive.