by Cliff Weathers, NYaltnews.com
In 1994 when Scott Vanderhoef was first elected as Rockland County Executive, OJ Simpson’s white Ford Bronco was in the news, Congressman Newt Gingrich organized Republican opposition to the Clinton administration’s attempt to reform health care, and the “Chunnel” between England and France opened for business. In the 18 years Vanderhoef has held that office, the population of Rockland County has grown 17% with almost 50,000 more residents. A lot has changed since 1994 and it’s fair to say that Vanderhoef has been the county’s most influential chief executive: he’s only the second person to hold the office of Rockland County Executive, which was first created in 1985.
Last week Vanderhoef announced that he would not run for re-election at the end of his current term. “Twenty years is a long time and I firmly believe that new eyes, a new perspective is needed,” he told a crowd at a fundraising dinner.
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef’s announcement that he would not seek reelection next year shocked most of the audience at an annual Republican fundraiser last Wednesday night. Even those close to Vanderhoef are saying that they had no idea that he would make this announcement, and found the timing during an event supporting his candidacy to be odd.
“I talked to Scott earlier in the week and he gave no sign he wouldn’t run,” one attendee told NYaltnews. “I wonder if his announcement was a split-second decision he made on the spot.”
“To say that I was shocked is an understatement,” continued the attendee. “The person next to me, who gave a small fortune [for the fundraising event] said ‘€˜we should get out money back.’”
Vanderhoef told the audience at Civile’s, a restaurant and catering hall in Haverstraw, that he would likely return to the private sector after nearly 20 years.
“With all things there’s time for change,” he said.” “So, I’m announcing to my favorite fundraisers and friends and supporters that I will not be a candidate.”
Some Republicans who know Vanderhoef speculated to NYaltnews that recent personal milestones or events may have contributed to his decision, but the idea was shot down by two sources close to Vanderhoef who say that the political landscape did not favor a reelection bid.
“He would have had to run a primary against [County Legislator Ed] Day,” said one source. “And although he might have been able to win it, the victor in such a match-up would come out battered. There’s also the possibility that with many new [conservative] members on the [Rockland County Republican] Committee, Vanderhoef wasn’t a shoe-in to get the party endorsement.”
Not all attendees were shocked, however. One county employee at the event, told NYaltnews earlier this year that she doubted Vanderhoef would run again, stating that he had “all but checked out” and had become “a shadow” at the Allison-Parris County Office Building.
Our source said Vanderhoef was aware that he’d have fractured Republican support, at best, in a general election and that he couldn’t count on support from fusion lines, like the Independence Party, next year.
Vanderhoef was first elected in 1993. Since his 2009 reelection, he has been harshly criticized from both the left and the right about his handling of Rockland County’s budget crisis. Rockland is nearly $100 million in debt and has the worst credit rating of all 62 New York counties.
There has been wide speculation about County Executive candidates. Along with Day, there are rumors that Republican Clarkstown Council member Frank Borelli, former Democratic County Legislator and Spring Valley Judge David Fried, and Democratic Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence have indicated interest in running for the seat.
Cliff Weathers publishes NYaltnews.com, where this article originally appeared.
- Vanderhoef to bow out, calls for ‘new ways of doing things’ Newsday 10/11/2012
- Scott Vanderhoef Biography, RocklandGov.com