News & Politics

Latimer’s win paves way for Westchester’s first Black county executive

Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, who lost the county executive race to Latimer in 2017, is now poised to assume the top job.

Westchester Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins speaks at 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Tarrytown on June 8, 2021.

Westchester Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins speaks at 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Tarrytown on June 8, 2021. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tuesday’s election results mean more for Westchester County residents than just having a new representative in Congress come 2025. Who's going to run the county when George Latimer inevitably catches his flight to D.C.? According to Democratic Party insiders in Westchester, it is Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins’ job to lose. 

Latimer beat incumbent Rep. Jamaal Bowman in their nationally significant Democratic primary on Tuesday. There’s a great deal of healing to be done in the district, but beyond that, when Latimer resigns, the process begins to fill his position. Enter Jenkins, who would be the first Black county executive in Westchester’s history.

“I certainly had expressed interest in following George when his term ended in 2025,” Jenkins told City & State. “It seems that may move up a bit.”

Jenkins ran to be Westchester County executive in 2017, losing to Latimer in the primary but later becoming his right-hand man. Democrats in the county believe he has a strong chance to both be appointed to the job in Latimer’s absence and then get selected as the Democratic nominee in the special election to fill Latimer’s seat. Since Latimer’s term ends in 2025, Jenkins would then have to win another Democratic primary election and the general election next year in order to remain in office. It helps that his current boss backs him all the way. 

“I expect him to be the Democratic nominee for county executive for the special election. I expect him to win it, and then he would become, in his own right for the rest of my unexpired term, the county executive, and then I would expect him to go on and win a full term in his own right,” Latimer said. “I don't know that I've heard anybody thinking of challenging him within the party.” 

Neither has anyone else, though it’s still early.

“Nobody has called me up and said ‘I’m definitely in’” said Westchester County Democratic Committee Chair Suzanne Berger.

Berger said that once Latimer resigns, the Westchester County Board of Legislators will need to schedule a special election to take place within 90 days and appoint an acting county executive, presumably Jenkins. Once the date is set, she and her Republican counterpart will hold a convention to pick their nominees.

“I certainly think that Mr. Jenkins is the favorite and I do expect him to seek the position,” she said. “I know he has a lot of support for it.” 

Jenkins hopes so too.

“We've been doing our governmental side work, our political work,” he said. “We could just keep doing the best job possible, and that's all we can do, right?”