Bedford attorney Sarmad Khojasteh looks at himself as the political outsider in the race for a hotly-sought-after seat in the New York State Senate.
“Some people will look at the name-recognition gap at the outset as some type of short-term liability,” he said. “We look at it as a strength.”
The pivotal seat in District 37 on Westchester’s eastern side has been empty since Jan. 1, when former state Sen. George Latimer left to take office as the Westchester County executive. A date for a special election hasn’t been set.
Khojasteh was born in Iran and grew up in Poughkeepsie. He’s an attorney with the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres.
Khojasteh said he began campaigning immediately after Latimer won election to the county seat in November, and in speaking to voters in the district, he’s heard there’s a thirst for change.
“There’s a voice missing in our politics,” he told The Journal News/lohud. “There’s an approach to governance missing in our politics from both sides. Practical, independent problem solving is utterly absent from Albany today.”
Khojasteh is one of two Republicans seeking party leaders’ backing to run for the pivotal seat in District 37 on Westchester’s eastern side. The other is Dan Schorr, former Yonkers inspector general and one-time candidate for county district attorney.
Democrats have already chosen Shelley Mayer, a state assemblywoman from Yonkers. The party held a nominating mini-convention at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on Jan. 9 despite the fact no date for the election has been set.
Republicans haven’t set a date for their nominating convention.
If elected, Khojasteh said he’d focus on an economic message to ensure working-class and small-business concerns were heard in the state Legislature.
“This election can’t simply be about beating Shelley Mayer or it can’t simply be about Dan or me becoming a state senator,” he said. “It has to be about delivering for Westchester’s working families. It has to be about preventing the taxes and high cost of living from driving our seniors out of New York state.”
The district has been represented by a Democrat for decades and Republicans have a nearly 30,000 voter disadvantage there. It has been viewed as a winnable seat by Republicans in the last few cycles and elections have proved to be contentious and well-funded.
The seat is viewed as a key for control of the state Senate, where Republicans hold a slim one-person majority with two seats open. There is talk that Democrats can put aside their differences and retake the Senate majority with wins in those two seats.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has to call for a special election and there’s no indication he’ll do so before a March 31 state budget deadline.
The seat represents the Senate’s 37th District, which covers a large part of the county on its eastern side. It includes parts of Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle as well as Bedford, North Castle, Harrison, Rye and Mamaroneck.