ALBANY – Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Wednesday he has no interest in anything other than one-on-one debates with incumbent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who he said has much to answer about everything from the controversy over the Moreland Commission to problems attracting and retaining businesses in the state.
“I’m open to debate every day from here on in. It’s not going to be a stage full of people. It’s going to be Andrew Cuomo versus me,” Astorino told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.
The governor in 2010 refused to debate Republican candidate Carl Paladino and agreed to just one debate – with seven candidates, including a new Rent Is Too Damn High Party candidate – that left little time for the two major party candidates to be questioned.
“One of us is going to win,” Astorino said of himself and Cuomo, adding that New Yorkers “have a right’’ to hear just from them about their records and plans for governing in Albany.
“We know the rent’s too damn high, but we want to know why the taxes are too damn high,” said Astorino, who is the Westchester County executive.
Astorino spoke briefly with reporters and was asked about a range of issues, from his term limit plan to the continuing swirl involving the investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan into a state anti-corruption panel created and recently shuttered by Cuomo. Prosecutors have gotten all the documents of that panel, called the Moreland Commission, and there are reports that the probe includes what, if any, pressure Cuomo or his aides may have put on the panel in its investigation.
“The governor needs to directly answer now to the people of New York on what it is he knew, what role he and/or his staff had in this commission, whether or not they did direct subpoenas to be quashed, steer the investigation away from potential donors or staff?” Astorino said, adding, “We should not have to have a U.S. attorney’s investigation to find out the answers to those questions.’’
Astorino also pushed his call for term limits – two, four-year terms for statewide officials and four, two-year terms for state legislators. “That gives you eight years to accomplish things,’’ he said. Astorino also dismissed any connection to stronger gun laws preventing shootings such as the one over the weekend in California that left seven people dead, including the shooter.
“Government failed,’’ Astorino said of the California case, noting what he said is a shortcoming by governments to deal more effectively with mentally ill people who could be a threat to others.
He said he supports the New York SAFE Act’s mental-health reporting provisions but still believes the law should be scrapped, though he signaled openness to background checks for private gun sales.
With less than a month to go in the legislative session, Astorino also weighed in again on reports that the Senate Republicans have softened their opposition to expansion of a taxpayer-funded campaign finance system beyond a new program put in place just this year for the state comptroller’s race.
“They have stated that they’re not in favor of it, and I’m going to hold them to their word,” Astorino said.