Rye councilwoman preps for state Senate run
By Christian Falcone
Julie Killian, a city of Rye councilwoman, will try to do what no other Republican has been able to: beat George Latimer.
Killian announced that she plans to seek the New York state Senate seat for the 37th District currently occupied by Latimer, a Democrat, at a Rye City Republican Committee meeting last month, the Review has learned. She is in her first full term on the Rye City Council and earlier this year was appointed deputy mayor. Killian, a mother of five, first joined the council in 2012 after being appointed to the seat following a vacancy.
Tony Sayegh, a political analyst for Fox News and News12 Westchester, said the 37th District, which stretches from the city of Yonkers north to the town of Bedford, is one of the Senate’s very few true swing districts in the state, meaning that either political party could wrestle control in a given election cycle. “It really requires somebody who is independent in some respects,” he said, adding that it’s also a very diverse district.
Sayegh, also a Republican strategist, has already been retained by the Killian camp as she prepares to officially launch her candidacy with an announcement expected on Friday, after press time. According to Sayegh, she has been listening to people’s issues and gaining a better understanding of the district.
“Julie is trying to understand all of the concerns and slowly we’ll be rolling out some of the solutions to those problems,” said Sayegh, adding that as far as a platform, it’s still too early for Killian to start talking specifics.
But the analyst said, based on her record of service, Killian is viewed as a problem solver. “She knows how to build consensus, she’s worked across the aisle [and] she has been a thoughtful leader in the realm of public policy,” he said.
Killian, 54, has been a member of the Westchester County Charter Revision Commission, a group established to recommend changes to the county charter, as well as New Yorkers for Growth, a PAC that promotes fiscally responsible policies in the state.
In Rye, she has served on the city Finance Committee, been a volunteer in the Rye school district, and a supporter of the Rye library, Rye Historical Society and Rye Arts Center. Her latest project was helping to launch an anti-drug coalition in Rye in 2015.
“Julie is a positive person, that is one thing that overwhelms you when you talk to her,” Sayegh said. “I imagine she will stand up for issues she believes are right and also draw a contrast where there is a difference of opinion.”
Conversely, Sayegh criticized Latimer by calling his record of bipartisanship hollow, adding that he has voted with the Democratic leadership more than 98 percent of the time. “He has aligned himself with the Bill DiBlasio New York City agenda,” he said, referring to the liberal mayor of New York City.
For Latimer, 62, the criticism is nothing new, as he seems to always be the target of state Republicans, who want to maintain control of the Senate. The senator told the Review that he has a bull’s-eye on his back.
“It’s because I don’t have personal wealth,” he said. “I have lived within my means. Given the fact that my salary as an elected official is all the income I have, that is not a lot of money in a place like Rye. It’s probably laughable to people [with] successful business careers. [Republicans] know they can always outspend me.”
But Latimer, who is seeking his third term in the Senate, said there is a reason why he has been consistently re-elected.
“I don’t think anyone has proven they care more about the people they represent than I do, day after day,” he said.
Latimer has never lost an election, winning 14 consecutive races dating back to his one term on the Rye City Council in 1987.
Killian’s campaign is likely to be well-financed with a high level of organization and full of support from some of the top Republicans throughout the state.
However, the last time the GOP put an all-out assault on Latimer, it backfired.
In 2012, with Latimer seeking the Senate seat following the retirement of longtime Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, a Democrat, the state Republicans ran Bob Cohen, who nearly defeated Oppenheimer just two years prior.
Many pundits predicted 2012 was Cohen’s time.
Cohen and Latimer battled it out before a statewide audience. The duo set the record for campaign expenditures in a state race at the time; the Cohen campaign spent more than $4 million on attack ads, including radio spots and TV commercials. But Latimer won the seat in surprisingly easy fashion, with 54 percent of the vote, and celebrated his hardest fought victory to date.
In 2014, Latimer defeated Republican Joe Dillon, a late entry who didn’t launch his campaign until July.
The district encompasses the cities of Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle and Rye; and the towns of Eastchester, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Rye, Bedford and North Castle.
Candidates are elected to the Senate for two-year terms with an annual base salary of $79,500.
Killian could not be reached for comment as of press time.