NEW YORK – Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Tuesday he believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t support him because of the ongoing traffic jams scandal in New Jersey.
Astorino suggested that his opponent, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, “has something” on the New Jersey governor and that Christie should resign his post as head of the Republican Governors Association if he won’t try to win New York’s statehouse for the GOP.
“I don’t know if there’s a connection with him and Andrew Cuomo on Bridgegate or if Cuomo has something that he’s holding back, information that could be damaging to the governor,” Astorino speculated at a Manhattan news conference.
Astorino did not say what he thought Cuomo might know about the political flap over lane closures near the George Washington Bridge. The bridge is run by the Port Authority, which is managed jointly by New York and New Jersey and is run by appointees of both governors.
There are several ongoing investigations into the scandal, which has threatened to undermine Christie’s possible 2016 presidential bid. Christie’s spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday on Astorino’s allegations.
Christie said Monday that he would not support Astorino because the race is “a lost cause.” Astorino trails Cuomo by nearly 40 points in the polls but pointed to Christie’s own underdog victory as inspiration for an improbable victory.
“Chris Christie forgot where he came from. In 2009 when nobody thought he’d beat Gov. Corzine, he worked hard, he got through the summer, things changed dramatically in the fall,” Astorino said.
“If Gov. Christie is unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA,” Astorino continued. “That’s his job, to go around the country. I would welcome the governor to come here to New York to assist us.”
A spokesman for Cuomo declined to comment.
First to come to the defense of Cuomo and Christie was David Paterson, the former governor who Cuomo installed recently as the state Democratic Party chairman.
Paterson called Astorino’s remarks about Christie “reckless” and “irresponsible’’ with no basis and “not fitting for a qualified gubernatorial candidate.”
“Maybe that’s why his candidacy is not being taken seriously,’’ Paterson said.
Astorino made his declaration during an unusual joint news conference with Zephyr Teachout, a little-known Democratic contender for governor.
Astorino, the Republican who leans right, and Teachout, the Democrat who leans left and is trying to force a Democratic primary election against Cuomo, appeared together before reporters in Manhattan – outside the Tweed Courthouse – to blast the continuing ethical challenges of Albany that they say have not gone away since Cuomo became governor four years ago.
“One thing we can agree on is that Albany corruption is growing under Andrew Cuomo,” said Astorino, the Westchester County executive.
The two candidates highlighted legislative redistricting deals from a couple of years ago, the ever-growing role of big money in campaigns, transparency problems, use of taxpayer money for economic development ad campaigns that they say are meant to prop up Cuomo’s image, and the now-defunct Moreland anti-corruption commission appointed and disbanded by Cuomo – operations that are reportedly being looked at by the federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who the Cuomo campaign is taking steps to keep from getting onto the ballot for the Democratic primary Sept. 9, said she voted for Cuomo in 2010 based, in part, on his promises to clean up Albany.
“But Gov. Cuomo broke the promises he made four years ago. The system is still corrupt. He not only refuses to fix it, he is making it worse,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.