Ask your average Western New Yorker about this year’s contest for governor and the reply most likely translates into: “What race for governor?”
Enthusiasm for the race between Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger Rob Astorino ranks up there with Jon Bon Jovi buying the Buffalo Bills.
But at least the pair presents an official contrast in their positions on issues, their personalities and – certainly – their campaign styles.
Cuomo – as the Politics Column has often noted – never quietly sneaks into town. Just hours before his arrival, the governor’s staff invites a few hundred of his closest friends to whatever event he convenes.
Stone-faced troopers stand guard. Aides hover. State legislators fawn. Good news abounds.
All recognize and applaud Cuomo’s constant references to construction cranes dotting the Buffalo skyline for the first time in years. The governor really, really likes construction cranes.
Astorino, in contrast, on Monday chose the long-abandoned Central Terminal on Buffalo’s struggling East Side to unveil his latest economic plan and chastise Cuomo for ignoring a host of rankings he says pushes the state into the uncompetitive category. He said he chose the Central Terminal as a symbol of decay.
“Look at it,” he said. “The decay is a symbol of what is happening in this state. It’s a facade with nothing in the middle.”
Maybe a little unfair. Central Terminal’s planners plunked an architectural gem far from downtown back in 1929, dooming it to eventual failure. Rail travel doesn’t rank with the time when 200 daily trains served Buffalo. And the folks looking to restore the once-bustling station would love to show Astorino their progress.
But we get Astorino’s point – and that’s that no construction cranes loom over the parts of Buffalo that still cause its ranking among the nation’s poorest cities.
Cuomo’s message: More progress in Buffalo and New York State than ever before.
Astorino’s message: Not enough; not fast enough. Better ways can be found.
That’s the decision facing voters in November. And the stark contrasts presented by both candidates offers a clear choice, too.
• Speaking of Astorino, the Westchester county executive got served a heap of steaming criticism along with his potato salad while attending last week’s Conservative Party picnic in West Seneca. Republican Astorino will also face Cuomo on the Conservative line this year after gaining the enthusiastic backing of state Chairman Mike Long.
But many Conservatives around the state are less than thrilled with Astorino forming yet another line – Stop Common Core – to gain the votes of those unwilling to mark ballots on the GOP or Conservative lines. Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo is among the harshest critics, claiming it’s difficult enough for Conservatives to maintain their third spot on the ballot against hard-charging parties like Working Families without another outfit siphoning votes.
• Delaware North Chairman Jerry Jacobs Jr. has some very busy days slated for his East Aurora estate. Not only will he host Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (a GOP presidential possibility in 2016) on Sept. 14 for a major fundraiser but he will also throw a similar soiree for Democrat Cuomo four days earlier – also at his East Aurora home, Western New York’s new epicenter for political fundraising.
For years, Jacobs has proven one of Cuomo’s most loyal financial backers.
• Quote of the Week comes from Astorino, who claimed during his Monday visit to Buffalo that momentum for his candidacy is building, especially as more and more Republican governors from around the country lend support.
“What about Chris Christie?” the Politics Column asked, referring to the New Jersey governor’s much-ballyhooed reticence to back his neighboring Republican.
“Most governors are getting involved,” he deadpanned.