Seeking his fifth term as Westchester County clerk, Tim Idoni’s political life will come down to absentee ballots.
In the only countywide primary Tuesday night, Idoni is leading challenger Shanae Williams, a Yonkers councilwoman since 2018, by 321 votes, according to the county Board of Elections. Neither candidate has declared victory or conceded.
Absentee ballots still need to be counted before it becomes clear who won. That counting will begin next Wednesday.
According to the Board of Elections, 8,630 absentee ballots were mailed out and 3,472 ballots have been returnedas of Wednesday afternoon.
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The tight race is indicative of a continuing trend in Westchester and the region where young progressive candidates, in some cases people of color, are beating establishment figures or at least coming close.
Idoni, 66, was New Rochelle’s mayor for three terms starting in 1991. He’s been county clerk since 2006.
Williams, an immigrant from Jamaica who is in her early 30s, was appointed to her council seat in 2018.
“There’s a shift going on in politics overall,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said. “Members of the Democratic Party are now looking at the candidates; having experience and tenure doesn’t mean that much like it used to and you’re seeing that for county clerk.”
Idoni led by more than 800 votes after early voting, before Williams secured roughly 500 more votes than him on primary day.
Overall, Idoni collected 15,046 votes and Williams secured 14,725 votes.
While a few other incumbents in Westchester fell, like Yonkers City Council President Michael Khader, most office holders fended off challengers. Longtime Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner topped Tasha Young and Rye City Mayor Josh Cohn easily defeated former city councilwoman Danielle Tagger-Epstein.
Idoni said early Wednesday morning he was cautiously optimistic he’d clinch the seat once all absentee votes are counted. He said he wasn’t surprised by the tight race, noting that Williams ran a “very aggressive race” while he was “very cautious.”
“She was extremely tough on us on a number of issues which I thought were unfair but that’s politics,” Idoni said of Williams. “This is a new generation coming up, they do things differently than my generation in terms of the way they campaign.”
Idoni agreed longtime incumbents aren’t as safe as they used to be against younger, more progressive candidates. But he thought his race would be different because the clerk’s office is less about policy and more about management, which he stressed requires experience.
He acknowledged his government experience didn’t seem to matter to many voters.
“We were seeing that a lot during the campaign,” Idoni said.
On Wednesday, Williams was still at a loss for words, pleased with her strong showing. She noted she did not have the backing of many political figures, and instead relied mostly on family and friends.
Williams said she wanted to make more people aware of the clerk’s office and changes the office could undertake. She argued her critique of the clerk’s office was factual.
“I think people also like turnover, they like young, new people with a different perspective on things,” Williams said.
In recent years, the county has shown that desire for fresh faces. Just last year, voters elected Democrats Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman, both young, Black and progressive, to Congress. Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah, a progressive, topped her moderate predecessor, Anthony Scarpino, in a Democratic primary. Tuckahoe Mayor Omayra Andino was the first person of color and woman elected to her current office.
Williams said county voters are more likely to give people of color and women like her the opportunity to hold leadership roles than in years past.
“I think people are just tired of the same status quo way of doing things,” she said. “They’re tired of the establishment, they’re tired of the good old boys and they want young progressives.”
Feiner, the Greenburgh supervisor fresh of his primary win, said it’s easier for longtime incumbents in local municipal elections to be reelected than at the county level. He noted he returns every phone call from constituents.
“When you run countywide, it’s hard to have a relationship with like everyone in the county and I think my advantage is the town is small enough where I practically know everybody,” said Feiner, who will be serving his 16th term at the start of next year.
David Propper covers Westchester County. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: dg_props. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.
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