Yonkers — Westchester businessman and long-time community volunteer Bob Cohen, a Republican, today announced his much-anticipated bid for the New York State Senate in the 37thDistrict (Westchester).
Mr. Cohen, in garnering more than 49% of the vote, took a 14-term incumbent to one of the longest recounts in the history of Westchester County in his race for the 37th Senate District seat in 2010. That incumbent has now stepped aside, creating an open seat.
Mr. Cohen, 57, a father and a successful businessman, is running for the senate to lower property taxes through mandate relief - Westchester families pay the highest property taxes in America - to bring fiscal reform to state government, improve New York's education system, and to fight for accountability in Albany.
"I am not a politician. I am your neighbor - I am the guy who lives across the street," Mr. Cohen said in his remarks. "The time has come for regular citizens to intervene in the affairs of our state. The career politicians continue to fail us."
"I am running for senatebecause our kids won't be able to live in Westchester if the property taxes keep going up;
"I am running for the senate because we need education reform that empowers teachers to teach, parents to parent, and that gives our children the opportunity for a world-class education;
"I am running for the senate because Albany needs citizen legislators again."
Mr. Cohen, who thanked incumbent State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, D—Mamaroneck, for her service in Albany, has pledged to fight for term limits for state legislators.
"I don't want to go to Albany to build a political career," he said, "I want to do the job that's needed, and then I want to come home to my family."
Mr. Cohen's complete announcement remarks, which were made in front of Artuso's Bakery on McLean Avenue in Yonkers, are below.
What's that expression? It's déjà vu all over again?
I feel like we just left off from 2010. Same podium. Same issues. The signs even look familiar. So do all your shiny, beautiful faces.
We came within a hare's breath of winning this race in 2010. We talked about the issues openly and honestly.
We leveled with the voters of Westchester and surprised a lot of people. They gave us 49.5% of the vote against a long-term incumbent senator.
So I'm here today to talk to those couple hundred voters who might be willing to reconsider their last vote. That's called a target audience.
In all seriousness, though, the 2012 race will be a very different one - for an obvious reason.
And it would be wrong not to acknowledge that from the start. State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer will not be pursuing re-election this year.
She will be retiring.
Senator Oppenheimer and I didn't always see eye-to-eye on things - like on property tax reform.
But she served her neighbors for more than 35 years, and I think we need to give Suzi a sincere thanks for the years of service she gave this district.
How about a round of applause for Suzi Oppenheimer before we begin.
Here's what will be the same in 2012:
I ran for state senate in 2010 as a man on a mission. That mission continues. New York State government is failing us.
It spends too much ... It taxes too much. And it lacks transparency and accountability.
That's not good enough for a state like New York, and we can do better. The fault lies in Albany, with the career politicians of both parties, Republican and Democrat alike.
It lies with the type of leader who is quick to take credit, but slow to take blame. It lies with the type of leader who says one thing in-district, and another thing in Albany. It lies with the type of leader who refuses to be held accountable for his results.
We may like some of them personally, but they have clearly failed us. They need to be held accountable for the bad results they've delivered, just as you and I are held accountable in our everyday lives.
That's how we get better government.
All the shortcuts they take...
All the side deals...
All the handouts traded for votes...
They've added up.
And guess what the sum is for the people of Westchester? The highest property taxes in America. We should feel lucky here, though. In other parts of New York things are far worse.
Upstate and Western New York have lost 1.5 million residents in the past decade. That's the same as if every man, woman, and child in the City of Yonkers packed up and left every 15 months for the next ten years.
Much of that has to do with government mismanagement.
The careless overspending..
The over-reaching regulations...
And the never-ending tax increases.
All those things have chased thousands of businesses from New York, and with them the jobs they provided.
Once those jobs leave, families go, too. We all know the story. Everyone here knows of a friend or family member who has moved to North Carolina, or Florida, or Texas in recent years.
Today we are standing in front of Artuso Bakery, a small business. Businesses like this are the lifeblood of our communities and should be given every opportunity to thrive. But instead, they are constantly under siege from taxes that are too high and regulations that are too burdensome. They are treated as sources of revenue for the state, instead of sources of jobs for the people.
That is not good enough for a state like New York, and we can do better. I salute Governor Cuomo for taking steps in the right direction.
He gets it.
A state that chases away jobs and families is not long an Empire State. It is a shrinking state. But the career politicians in Albany - the ones deeply indebted to special interests - still don't seem to care.
When reforms are raised, they instinctively block them.
Take a look at the future of our public employee pension program. Everyone knows the costs of our pension obligations are unsustainable. This is math, not politics.
Unless we fundamentally change how benefits are given to future hires, we will be forced to gut our social safety net, reduce aid for education, and raise property taxes even further. That is totally unacceptable to me.
But ask your local legislator about specific reforms that would truly save the system, such as placing future employees in the sorts of 401K-style plans that most New Yorkers use today, and see what they say.
And they run and hide behind the powerful special interests.
Ask, say, some local Assemblyman what he thinks about pension reform and the property tax cap and watch where he runs to. The reason career politicians run is that they fear the special interests more than they fear the voters, but we can change that!
We can change that. It's one of the reasons why in 2010 I got 49.5% of the vote. I talked about this stuff honestly, and proposed real solutions.
New York has some of the brightest citizens in America. Westchester has the brightest of the brightest in New York.
It is an insult to our intelligence that the career politicians in Albany think they can keep getting away with this.
We are not dumb. We are not blind. We can do the math.
New York has among the highest taxes and worst business climates in America. We know that if we don't fundamentally reform the way Albany does business, New York will keep losing families and jobs and our taxes will keep going up and up.
That's not good enough for me, that's not good enough for you, and that's not good enough for a state like New York. We can do better!
We can do better.
I am not a politician. I am a husband, a father, and a businessman. I am your neighbor. I am the guy who lives across the street.
I serve as a volunteer fire fighter. I coached my kids' soccer, baseball, and softball teams. I volunteer locally and serve on the County Parks Board.
I believe in the concept of community and I try to give back where I can. I couldn't care less about the politics of the day.
What I care about are the concerns and well-being of my neighbors and my family.
And getting results.
Like you, when I am older I want my children to be able to live nearby if they choose to.
I don't want to buy airline tickets to Texas to see my grandchildren, and I don't know how to use Skype.
We all know it's getting tough to live in this county, and the core of the problem lies in Albany.
Until we fix what goes on there, we cannot stop the taxes that are strangling our economy and our household budgets.
I am running for senate because our kids won't be able to live in Westchester if the property taxes keep going up;
I am running for the senate because we need education reform that empowers teachers to teach, parents to parent, and that gives our children the opportunity for a world-class education;
I am running for the senate because Albany needs citizen legislators again.
Citizen legislators. Who know how to balance a checkbook and have the guts to say 'no' to the special interests.
I don't want to go to Albany to build a political career.
In fact, I want term limits for our state politicians.
I want to do the job that's needed,
And then I want to come home to my family.
And so, with thanks to all of those who have supported me these last two years and those whose support I will seek in the months to come...
And with all the humility and sincerity in my heart...
I announce my candidacy today for the office of the New York State Senate! Our government today is not good enough for a state like New York. We can do better And together, we will do better!
For the next eight months I will work day and night in every corner of this district to deliver my message of tax relief, transparent government, and citizen intervention in Albany.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for listening to me.