I have a memory of George Latimer doing his best to cripple former Governor Eliot Spitzer in the Governor’s then effort to clean up New York politics and the state legislature, and I can’t forget it – and neither should you. Because it is indicative of Mr. Latimer’s enduring character.
The time was early 2007. Every citizen in New York had just undergone the humiliation of seeing another top elected official resigning in disgrace – in this case, the Comptroller Alan Hevisi. Governor Spitzer, whose election I supported, was so determined to get an honest and competent replacement for Mr. Hevisi that he had the temerity to suggest that the selection should be taken out of the hands of George Latimer’s buddies in the Assembly, like Speaker Sheldon Silver, and handed over to an independent commission of former comptrollers. George Latimer successfully opposed that, and helped get a political ally of Sheldon Silver’s nominated and appointed (Tom DiNapoli).
“I had supported George for the Assembly because I thought he supported reform, and I’m terribly disappointed to see both what he did, how he voted and what he has said,” Mr. Spitzer said.
I was angry and disappointed too, and as a constituent of Mr. Latimer’s I let him know in no uncertain terms. Surprised perhaps that his constituents were even paying attention, Mr. Latimer invited me to a cup of coffee at the Doral Arrowwood Conference Center, and when I let him know in no uncertain terms that what he had done was a stab in the back to his constituents, he told me quite simply that he had $300,000 in his campaign bank account..and to bring it on: he’d take on the Governor, anyone for that matter, because he had Shelly Silver and his special interest buddies in his pocket, and a financial advantage no one on the horizon could challenge. And that he did. Mr. Latimer has been a consistent creature of Sheldon Silver’s from the get go. Many a time, when a local official asked for Mr. Latimer’s help with an Assembly bill, I heard Mr. Latimer’s constant refrain, “that will cost me a pound of flesh.” Sadly, he hasn’t lost any of that unethical overweight baggage. He would do “Shelly’s bidding” and that of his financial backers, and damn the constituents. I will say this for Mr. Latimer. He has always said this with a friendly smile, all the while prepared to shove the Silver-Latimer knife in your guts.
In a once foolish attempt to point a way to being a true representative of his politically diverse District, I suggested to Mr. Latimer that he should start voting for his constituents, and if necessary, run as an independent so he could be his own man. Not a chance.
And so now we come to this election, where Mr. Latimer has relinquished his Democratic Party Assembly nomination to an equally unctuous potential replacement, Steve Otis, to run for Suzi Oppenheimer’s Senate seat, presumably to temporarily escape the clutches of Speaker Silver. Fortunately he faces a well-funded and talented opponent, Bob Cohen, who, unfortunately, is on the receiving end of the Latimer knife and now scurrilous tongue.
Mr. Cohen deserves the support of every independent, Democrat, and Republican fed up with Albany corruption and mismanagement. And for that matter, that support should be extended to first time Assembly candidate Bill Villanova, running a vigorous clean-up-Albany campaign and sporting an ethically commendable record.
This community has had enough of George Latimer. Every informed Westchester voter ought to support his prompt exit from the legislative payroll by voting for his opponent. Bob Cohen, on November 6.