New York 18th District
The great granite ridges that form the spine of Manhattan and the Bronx move north into lower Westchester County, the thin peninsula of land between Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. This was active territory from early on. Washington Irving, the first fully professional writer in America, sent his headless horseman on a chase for schoolmaster Ichabod Crane through Sleepy Hollow, a fictionalized version of Tarrytown, on the east bank of the Hudson. Revolutionary War battles were fought here, and figures like John Peter Zenger, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay lived here. Blessed with some of America’s loveliest scenery and easily accessible from Manhattan by train since the mid-19th century, this became some of America’s first suburban terrain, with grand estates built by great millionaires—Jay Gould’s Gothic revival Lyndhurst and John D. Rockefeller’s spectacular Kykuit, with villages for retainers clustered around the railroad stations. Today, Westchester still looks suburban, perhaps more than ever now that it has the patina of age. It has little commuter-railroad stations across from faux Tudor drugstores, soda fountains and cobblestone post offices. But it also has shopping malls and gallerias and plenty of corporate headquarters, from IBM and Texaco to PepsiCo and Reader’s Digest (as well as corporate watchdogs: Consumer Reports magazine is based in Yonkers). Intensive development slows north of White Plains, for Westchester is crossed by the first of several mountain ridges just to the north—the closest the Appalachians come to the ocean. The county does have its share of homeless people and impoverished ghettos. And to the north, in Ossining, on the Hudson River, looms the famed Sing Sing maximum-security prison.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 18th Congressional District of New York contains the heart of suburban Westchester County and also crosses the Hudson River into Rockland County to Haverstraw. It includes a host of affluent suburbs, many within easy reach of Grand Central via the Metro North rail lines—Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, White Plains, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, Harrison, Armonk and Chappaqua, where former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have a home. Historically, Westchester was a Republican county, with a successful Republican machine and an electorate of affluent professionals who naturally preferred the political party that opposed the big city political bosses and labor union leaders. But today, Westchester is mostly Democratic, after a heavy influx of Jews who broke down many legal restrictions and other barriers to residence after World War II. These Jewish voters, long Democratic, became even more so thanks to the visibility of Christian conservatives in the Republican Party. Another reason is that on the cultural issues of greatest import, gun control and abortion rights, affluent suburbanites in America’s biggest metropolitan area have been strongly on the liberal side. Westchester County is more diverse than one might imagine and the 18th District reflects this: It is 10% black, 18% Hispanic and 6% Asian. Former Republican Gov. George Pataki, who began his political career as mayor of Peekskill in northern Westchester, carried the county by handsome margins in 1998 and 2002. But the county gave strong support to Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, and unlike the Long Island suburbs, it voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton for Senate in 2000. In 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won Westchester, 63%-36%.