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Westchester's Astorino Announces Candidacy For NY Governor

Office of the Westchester County Executive

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino today announced he is running for governor of New York. Legislators on both sides of the aisle say he is a credible and personable candidate, though Democrats say he faces an uphill battle.

In a nearly six-and-a-half minute video message on his campaign website, Astorino delivered a widely anticipated announcement.

“I'm Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and I'm announcing my candidacy today for governor of New York State because I'm tired of listening to the fairy tale that everything is just great when it's just the opposite. I'm tired of watching New York's decline.”

Gerald Benjamin is a political science professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He says the video message is effective.

“He’s an attractive person, he has an attractive family, it was an attractive setting,” says Benjamin. “Making the announcement in the video was a very controlled environment and, I think, effective in immediately reaching out broadly.”

However, he says Astorino has a challenging road ahead of him, given first-term Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s popularity and campaign war chest.

“The announcement touched all the issue bases, some of which I think, it’s a right-center kind of argument,” says Benjamin. “And I think the governor is not vulnerable on a lot of the points that were raised. Some points were raised to appeal to core Republican constituencies, and they will, like the SAFE Act point and the point about prison education, but they’re not winning arguments statewide. The core statewide issues are on economic development and tax relief and I think the governor has been very aggressive on those issues.”

Cuomo has not yet announced he will run for a second term, though it is expected he will. A spokesman for the New York State Democratic Committee released a statement saying, quote, "We look forward to an entertaining Republican primary process and are ready to run against whomever their nominee is in September."

Astorino scored a decisive win in November for a second term in a county where Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters by at least a 2-to-1 margin, and he mentions in his ad his appeal to Democrats and Independents. Michael Smith is a Republican legislator on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. His district includes Mount Pleasant, where Astorino resides. Smith believes Astorino’s cross-party appeal in Westchester will translate statewide.

“The last couple of years, Rob Astorino has been able to put together a coalition in the legislature, which has been outnumbered. There’s more Democrats on the legislature than Republicans, and Rob needed to create and craft agreements to get his budgets across the finish line,” says Smith. “He is successfully able to negotiate. He keeps his principle.”

He adds:

“Rob is very clear in what he believes in,” Smith says. “He doesn’t mealy mouth around. He doesn’t make up stories. He doesn’t wait for polls to tell him what he should do, or not make decisions because it’s not politically expedient.”

Democrat Catherine Borgia is the Majority Leader on the Westchester Board of Legislators. She says Cuomo not only has high approval ratings, but has the advantage of being an incumbent.

“The governing of a county is very, very different than the governing of a state,” says Borgia. “And one of the things that I think is going to be quite hard for Astorino as he moves up is I don’t think he quite has the level of expertise or experience or vision to run an organization as complex as the government of New York State.”

She worked for several years as Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s chief of staff.

Astorino in his message underscores the need for lower taxes, more jobs, and keeping New Yorkers from the leaving the state. And he asked the following question, twice.

“As a state, are we winning or are we losing today? Because if New York is winning, re-elect Andrew Cuomo.  But if New York is losing -- and the evidence says it is -- we need to make a change.”

Next up for Astorino: a statewide campaign kickoff tour.

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