In the general progression of things, many local elected officials desire to become State Lawmakers. But this year there seems to be a reverse trend where many State Lawmakers instead of running for re-election and choosing to run for local elected positions in their home district, including State Senator George Latimer who is running for Westchester County Executive in the fall.
Other State Lawmakers looking to make the move to local office include Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin who is running for Rensselaer County Executive, State Senator Phil Boyle who seeks to become sheriff of Suffolk County, and several New York City lawmakers have launched campaigns for City Council, which is an increasingly popular destination for former state lawmakers.
Assemblyman Mickey Kearns is running for Erie County Clerk. A supporter of term limits for the Legislature, Kearns says it’s about finding a new challenge in a different public office.
“I think there should be a beginning and an end when it comes to Albany and I’m looking forward to new opportunities,” Kearns said.
This trend didn’t just start in 2017. In 2015 State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson ran unsuccessfully in a heated race for Mayor of Mount Vernon after serving the New York Senate District 16 (the City Mount Vernon in Westchester County and Northeast Bronx neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Williamsbridge, Co-op City, Wakefield and Baychester) from 2001-2016.
Sen. Latimer served seven (7) two-year terms from 1992-2004, represented 55,000 residents of Westchester’s Sound Shore communities in the 7th CLD (Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, Part of Harrison and Part of New Rochelle). He served as Minority Leader 1996-1997; Chairman of the Board of Legislators, two terms, 1998-2001. He went on to serve four (4) two-year terms representing 125,000 residents of the 91st AD (Rye, Rye Brook, Port Chester, Mamaroneck and New Rochelle) in Westchester County’s Sound Shore communities. Chaired NYS Assembly Commission on Government Administration 2011-12.
Latimer went on to serve two (2) two-year terms – 2012, 2014 – representing 310,000 residents of the 37th SD in Westchester County which includes all of Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, Larchmont, Mamaroneck Town, Mamaroneck Village, Rye City, Rye Town, Port Chester, Harrison, North Castle and Bedford; also includes parts of the cities of White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers..
Now Latimer is part of the reverse trend looking to help out on a local level. Why are many State Lawmakers coming back home? There is, of course, the travel factor. The trip from Western New York can be an especially long one and lawmakers spend up to six months traveling back and forth during the legislative session. Kearns says he’s made the trip for about 13 years.
Then there’s the desire to actually get something done — an attractive proposition for any legislator like McLaughlin who has toiled in the minority.
“It’s because with executive authority, you can get a lot of things done and you can help people on a direct day-to-day basis,” McLaughlin said.
“Being in the Legislature’s great, but you’re one of a body. You can’t come here in and say, ‘this is what we’re doing.’ You have to convince, in our case, 150 people.”
Then there is the fact lawmakers haven’t received a pay increase since 1999. Lawmakers earn a base salary of $79,500 and many of the local level positions pay more.
More about State Lawmakers:
State Senator: The State Senate consists of representatives who are elected in districts that usually span several cities and counties. State Senators are usually more high-profile political campaign candidates, and their terms last longer than those of State Representatives or State Assemblymen.
State Representative/State Assembly Person: The State House of Representatives, or State Assembly as it is called in some states, generally consists of members who are elected in from districts for terms of two years. Like State Senate, they are among the highest-profile local political campaigns. The position of State Assemblywoman/State Representative is usually considered part-time, and require weekly visits to the Statehouse for voting and government business.
More about Local Elected Officials:
County Executive: Some counties have an elected County Executive in addition to, or instead of, County Commissioners. The County Executive, if elected, is voted upon by the entire county.
City Ward Councilman/Alderman: City Council is in many cases made up of councilpersons who are elected in individual city wards, as well as at-large council members who are elected by the entire city. A ward councilman or councilwoman–also called Alderman and Alderwoman in some cities–only run a political campaign for office within their own ward, and hold two-year, part-time terms in many cases.
At-Large Councilman: A Councilman/Councilwoman At-Large has the same duties as a ward councilperson, but they are elected by voters across the entire city instead of voters only in a specific ward, such is the case in Cities like Mount Vernon, NY.