Scarsdale's Bob Cohen is near the end of an intense campaign for state senate.
Months before candidates in most other races had entered the public consciousness, Cohen and state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer were both in full campaign mode, trading public accusations and political barbs.
As Nov. 2 draws closer, both candidates have taken to the airwaves – and the postal service – to get in a few last shots before voters head to the polls. In September, Oppenheimer's camp accused Cohen of "mudslinging" after a mailer said the senator was "dumbing down" education standards, while Cohen took issue with an Oppenheimer TV commercial that portrayed him as a slumlord.
A poll released last week shows Oppenheimer leading Cohen by 10 percent, but it's not all bad news for the challenger – voters seem locked in on their views of Oppenheimer, who has been in office for 25 years. Fewer people view Cohen unfavorably, and an eye-opening 37 percent say they're undecided, according to the Iona College/RNN poll.
Conventional wisdom says that's a matter of name recognition, but with campaign commercials in heavy rotation, Cohen hopes to close that gap.
As the candidates make their last laps around neighborhoods and put in late bids to score more votes, Cohen took the time to answer a few questions from Patch writer Robert Rennie.
Who is the elected official, local or national, you most admire?
Describe how your private sector experience might shape the way you'd behave as a state senator.
I will bring a new kind of leadership to Albany because I am not a career politician like my opponent; I am a small business owner who is active in the community and can bring hands-on, real world experience to Albany. My skill set and viewpoint is unique, coming from a successful career in the private-sector, where Albany-like shenanigans lead to bankruptcy.
This state has a notorious reputation for being hostile to business. To change that, we need to put state spending on a diet, reduce the tax burden, and remove the regulatory barriers that make it difficult to invest and create jobs here. As a small business owner, I know how difficult it is to do business in this state, and I have seen first-hand how the taxes and regulations in New York drive away businesses and the jobs they create.
Sen. Oppenheimer has consistently voted for higher spending, taxes and a reckless series of budget gimmicks which have hurt New York's economy. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, she has voted against the interests of small business 90 percent of the time. This year's state budget – which Sen. Oppenheimer supported – raised taxes by $4 billion and includes not one initiative for job creation. In fact, it cancelled more than $1 billion in business tax credits. That's not a way to attract new business.
The legislature is in desperate need of new ideas from new people who aren't part of the same, broken system. Throughout a 26-year career in the Senate, my opponent has consistently been a reliable vote for more spending, more taxes, and more debt. We can no longer afford to keep sending the same career politicians to Albany who are responsible for the mess we are in today.
How does your morality or personal code of ethics impact the way you view the world?
I consider myself to be a highly moral and ethical person and I wish that we had more elected officials in office that people believed in.
What are some community organizations or groups that you've been affiliated with over the years?
My wife and I have been committed members of the Scarsdale community since we moved to town in 1989. I have been a member of the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department for 17 years, and served as a lieutenant for six years. I am also a member of the non-partisan Town and Village Civic Club Education Forum, and serve on the Judicial Advisory Committee. Like many parents, I coached my children's sports teams.
What are you most proud of in terms of your professional, or personal life?
I worked my way through college and law school, so I know what it is like for young people from modest backgrounds to get ahead in the world. And I am proud of the business that I built transforming underdeveloped residential properties into attractive, affordable spaces for families, students and entrepreneurs. I am grateful that I have been successful in business, but am more proud of the way we improve the neighborhoods. But most of all, I am proud of the family I raised here in Westchester County with my wife Barbara.
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