Can a leopard change its spots? That's one of the questions voters have to consider when casting a ballot in the race for the 40th state Senate District, where two-term Assemblyman Greg Ball and Westchester Legislator Michael Kaplowitz are vying for the seat now held by Vincent Leibell, who is running for Putnam County executive.

Our recommendation goes to Kaplowitz, who has a track record of accomplishment and the temperament necessary to build consensus and work with others to achieve his goals. A Democrat who is also running on the Independence line, Kaplowitz is a financial planner and lawyer who knows his way around a budget. He served on the Westchester Board of Legislators for 12 years, many of them as the heady chairman of the budget committee. His power — but perhaps not his influence — was diminished after a very public break with since-deposed board Chairman Bill Ryan two years ago, mainly over board leadership.

These days, everyone running for public office is talking about cutting taxes and government spending. Kaplowitz's plan calls for a new, less-generous plan for new enrollees in the state pension system; a hiring freeze on state employees; and a property tax cap and circuit breaker that ties property taxes to income. Kaplowitz also looks beyond the current fiscal environment. "Good times will come," he told the Editorial Board. "And we need to put in growth measures for infrastructure, like the Tappan Zee Bridge."

Ball, a Patterson Republican who is also running on the Conservative line, has a well-honed reputation for calling out legislative leaders for their excesses, even those in his own party. His adversaries run the gamut from Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the Assembly, to Leibell, R-Patterson, whose campaign fund has been generous to Ball's rivals. Elected on an anti-illegal-immigrant platform, Ball has also been out front on financial issues, including the adoption of spending and tax caps, and opposing the MTA's mobility tax.

Despite some softening in recent years, however, Ball still demonstrates more willingness to make noise than to bring together the coalitions necessary to solve hard problems. For instance, in August he held a press conference to call for the dissolution of the Village of Brewster. The problem is, he didn't inform anyone in village government. While a new state law allows voters to dissolve layers of government by referendum, any serious attempt at dissolving the village would take a lot of discussion and consensus-building. Issuing press releases isn't enough.

Ball disputes the notion that he cannot work with other legislators. Nonetheless, he insists that he has changed. "I've learned an awful lot. I went to the Assembly to fight," Ball told the Editorial Board. "In the state Senate, am I going to fight, absolutely, but not every single battle. I learned my lesson, I'm going to the Senate to lead." We think only one of these candidates has demonstrated the capacity to do so: Kaplowitz.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Journal News Endorses Michael Kaplowitz for State Senate!