Rob Astorino, the newly minted Republican candidate for governor, arrived in Cheektowaga on Saturday and mapped out a plan and a message to win election as the state’s leader, even if voter registration is vastly balanced toward Democrats:
Venture into traditional Democratic communities and ask if New York is winning or losing.
That is how he won over voters in his home of Westchester County, where he has been elected county executive, he said.
And on the losing side of the state ledger, Astorino listed the highest taxes and electricity costs in the nation, along with the highest education spending but low student performance results.
Corruption in Albany is another negative, he pointed out, noting that several state legislators have been indicted or convicted of various crimes. As for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s now-defunct anti-corruption commission, it is now under investigation, he added.
“Only in New York State can an anti-corruption commission be corrupted,” Astorino told more than 100 Republicans at a GOP roundtable at the Pvt. Leonard Post Jr. VFW Post in Cheektowaga.
He noted that the Moreland Commission, established by Cuomo to probe public corruption and later terminated before completing its probes, is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York City who wants to determine whether Cuomo interfered with the panel’s decisions.
Astorino, nominated Thursday at the state GOP convention in Rye Brook, said he and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Christopher J. Moss, are well qualified to help clean up the corruption. Moss accompanied Astorino on his trip to Western New York.
Astorino also focused on another negative: New York’s ranking as the No. 1 state for out-migration, with 400,000 people leaving the state in the last four years.
He asked the audience how many of their friends have moved out of state after retiring or after their children left the state to find jobs elsewhere.
“We can turn it around,” he said.
Astorino said he and Moss have children and understand parents’ desire to keep young people in the state.
He said the state can keep them here by cutting taxes and regulations that result in businesses moving out of New York to states with lower taxes and fewer regulations and companies refusing to relocate here to create jobs.
He cited the case of a dairy farmer with 900 cows who told him he may sell his farm because he has had to hire an accountant, lawyer and consultant to deal with environmental, safety and other regulations.
In response to a question about the governor’s Start-Up New York program for new businesses that come to the state and set up operations in tax-free zones on or near State University of New York campuses, he said the program has infuriated companies already in the state that get no such help. He said he would cut taxes across the board to help all businesses.
Asked about the state’s high electricity costs, he cited the need for a mix of energy sources to bring down costs, including the need for natural gas drilling in the state’s Marcellus Shale regions. He said the governor, for political reasons, has banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, while the state studies the impacts of the controversial drilling process on the environment and health. Thirty states allow the process, he said.
On a question about people moving to the state for Medicaid and welfare benefits, he said New York needs to find balance on Medicaid payments, noting that New York spends more on the program than Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida combined.
Astorino also said he was in favor of getting rid of the SAFE Act, the Cuomo-sponsored gun control law, and he criticized the Common Core education program for its federal control.
The GOP candidate said he can defeat Cuomo by taking his message to traditionally Democratic communities as he did in 2009 when he was first elected in Westchester County, defeating a heavily favored Democratic incumbent.
He said he campaigned in African-American, Hispanic and Jewish communities with his message of cutting taxes and the size of government and getting companies to create jobs.
He said he can win the governor’s race because 45 to 50 percent of the turnout is upstate. He said he can lose New York City by 70 percent to 30 percent and still claim victory by winning voters upstate, in Westchester County and on Long Island.
His running mate said they can win by talking to residents across the state who Moss said want to talk about the lack of jobs, federal interference in education and repealing the SAFE Act.