YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown resident Vedat Gashi is hoping to do what many believe is impossible: turn the 94th Assembly District blue.
Redistricting has muddled the history of the northern Westchester/Putnam region, but it has been represented by a Republican dating back at least a half-century, according to information online. Prior to the most recent redistricting in 2012, the area was represented by the 99th Assembly District. The Republican trend has continued despite the re-labeling, as Assemblyman Kevin Byrne was elected in 2016 to replace Steve Katz.
According to active enrollment numbers, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district 31,385 to 27,206. The gap widens when Conservative and Independence party registration is taken into account.
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Gashi, an attorney who specializes in real estate, said the issues that brought him into the race affect people of all parties.
“They have the same concerns,” Gashi said. “Everyone’s concerned about how high their taxes are. They’re concerned about their roads. They’re concerned about their health care and how expensive it’s becoming. It’s not a Democrat or Republican thing; it feels un-American to me.”
Gashi is hoping to ride last year’s blue wave that unseated many Republican incumbents in Westchester County. He said Democrats are motivated and registration is up in Westchester.
“Frankly, part of the reason why we have a good chance is because the other side has become out of step with the needs and desires of the people who actually live here,” Gashi said.
Specifically, Gashi said, he is upset at the federal government’s $10,000 cap on deductions for state income and local property taxes. He also said Westchester is paying the highest taxes, but the services it gets back from New York State are not proportionate.
“I see the difficult economic situation we’re in and the response from the other side seems to be we need to make it easier for the wealthiest to go about their business,” Gashi said. “They want to do that at the expense of the poorest and the middle class.”
Gashi was born in Kosovo (formerly Yugoslavia) in April 1978. At the age of 4, he and his family immigrated to the United States. He first moved to the Bronx and later Yorktown. Gashi is one of five children, four of whom still reside in Yorktown.
After graduating from Lakeland High School, Gashi earned a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and a law degree from Seton Hall University. While in college, he interned for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, then at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and for Congressman Lee Hamilton on the House International Relations Committee.
Upon passing the New York bar, Gashi returned to his native country to join the United States/European Union effort to help establish the newly formed state of Kosovo. There, he drafted some of Kosovo’s foundational legal documents and established Kosovo’s Ministry of Local Government Administration. He was later nominated by the United Nations to serve as the chief legal adviser to Kosovo’s prime minister. Shortly after Kosovo declared independence, he returned to the United States.
He lives in Yorktown with his wife, Vjosa, and their children, Leka, 6, and Hana, 4, who attend Yorktown public schools. Gashi is also a member of the Yorktown Rotary Club.
Gashi, who kicked off his campaign on Sunday, May 6, outside of his Yorktown headquarters, said he decided to enter the race about a year ago.
“We were immigrants, and at some point, we were able to have some success in business,” Gashi said. “When you grow up poor and all of a sudden you can pay your bills, you want to give back.”
Gashi said there is “real enthusiasm” in the Democratic Party, and he intends to run a positive race.
“I don’t want to build myself by tearing someone down,” Gashi said. “I want to show why I’m the better candidate… I think we have a historic moment here, in terms of the opportunity to change this district to a Democratic one from a Republican one.”