From the day Michael Kaplowitz announced he would be leaving the Board of Legislators last winter, it seemed that District 4 would be at a bit of a disadvantage, at least to start.
The 22-year lawmaker had built up such a strong reputation on both sides of the aisle – a rarity at any level of politics these days – that any successor was going to have his or her hands full from the time they took the oath of office.
That task now falls to Democrat Vedat Gashi or Republican Michael Grace, both of Yorktown, their party’s nominees to pick up the mantle for constituents in New Castle and portions of Somers and Yorktown.
Gashi ran for public office for the first time last year, losing a race for the 94th Assembly District to Assemblyman Kevin Byrne. Meanwhile, Grace is two years removed from his six-year tenure as Yorktown supervisor. Earlier in his career, he served as Yorktown Town Attorney.
Despite Grace’s obvious edge in public office experience, it is our hope that Gashi can win his first contest and be a quick learner, using the level-headed approach that was one of Kaplowitz’s hallmarks in this politically diverse district.
Gashi, who came to the United States with his family from what is now Kosovo, embodies the American Dream. With little to their name at the time of his family’s arrival, Gashi graduated college and law school. He was an intern for eventual Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and was a legal adviser to his native country’s prime minister.
Therefore, Gashi has all the tools needed to get up to speed quickly on the issues. He recognizes that the county was left in fiscal distress with depleted reserves and a downgrade in the bond rating, which necessitated the sales tax increase that went into effect Aug. 1.
Gashi seems ready to do his part to help the county find a solution to the aircraft noise and to tackle the growing sewer dilemmas in each town in the district.
However, this race is as much about some of Grace’s outlandish positions on issues as it is about Gashi. No one was rejoicing at the sales tax hike, but Grace seems to be in denial about the deteriorated fiscal picture the county has been facing, making the state comptroller’s fiscal stress list for the past two years. Grace’s belief that a fund balance that fell by about 50 percent in a decade is more than enough and that taxes can never be raised is folly.
While Gashi may not have had many answers at his fingertips about the airport noise issue, which, by the way, has also been affecting Yorktown residents, Grace seemed to be unconcerned about its impact.
Finally, his opposition to the county’s Immigrant Protection Act doesn’t make sense. During a pair of interviews, he repeatedly linked a pair of rapes where undocumented immigrants were accused to the IPA. The legislation, signed into law in early 2018, does not cause suspects of violent crimes to be sprung from jail. Instead, it prevents county resources, including law enforcement, from being expended to assist federal authorities.
Whatever early learning curve Gashi may face is more than offset by Grace’s outdated and ineffectual strategies to address complex problems.