HORNELL — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino took aim at current Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and his record at a campaign rally in downtown Hornell Friday.
A crowd of approximately 60 people gathered to meet and greet the fiery Westchester County Executive and his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss at the event hosted by Hornell GOP Chairman John Buckley. Also attending were State Senator Tom O'Mara and several members of local government.
O'Mara spoke of his previous work with Moss in Chemung County over the years, and expressed great confidence in the ticket's leadership abilities. "They stand for our constitutionally protected rights," he said.
Astorino took to the podium and immediately called out the embattled governor. "If (Cuomo) were so proud of his record, shouldn't he be touting it? But he shouldn't be, and he knows he's not proud of his record. Why would you? The least of his problems is that he's under investigation from federal prosecutors . . . I wouldn't want to go across New York State with a record like his," Astorino said in opening remarks.
When asked why people in Steuben County would benefit from Rob Astorino being governor he used the opportunity to take another swipe at Cuomo.
"They aren't benefiting from Andrew Cuomo being governor that's for sure . . . People are being nickel and dimed to death," he said.
Members of the crowd had many different motivations for attending the event. Some came out in opposition to the Safe Act, a gun measure signed into law by Cuomo, some to protest Common Core learning standards, some motivated by their current economic situation, and others who simply came to see a lively political event. Astorino delivered on all fronts, covering a wide range of subjects.
A former member of Westchester's city school board, Astorino drew on his experience and called Common Core teaching and learning standards "the biggest untested experiment in American history."
The candidate struck back at those discouraging protest against the law in saying, "For someone to say if you're not in favor of Common Core then you're not in favor of elevating standards is ridiculous. Between 2008 and 2010, the (state) Board of Regents was working on rigorous standards that de-emphasized some of the testing and put more decision making on curriculum and education policies on the local level."
Astorino continued by pointing out that several other states are opting out of Common Core.
He hit Cuomo hard on tax policy, taking issue with the estate tax, property taxes and the tax burdens placed on small business. Painting a grave situation, Astorino said "400,000 New Yorkers have fled under his watch . . . We have the highest taxes in America, and it's not even close."
Astorino went on to blame the mass exodus on Cuomo and a culture of over regulation, reminding voters that there are "over 750,000 regulations on the books in this state, New York state is doing everything in its power to make sure your business fails."
Astorino told The Spectator that he would be releasing his tax plan in the coming weeks.
The candidate also used the divisions caused by differences in the governing priorities of Upstate and Downstate New Yorkers to motivate local voters, urging those in attendance to use this opportunity to "cancel out some of those New York City voters that don't want you to have property rights up here."
On hydraulic fracturing or "franking," an invasive process used to release natural gas from shale deposits for energy purposes the gubernatorial hopeful said that he would respect a June 30 state appellate court ruling awarding municipalities the right to either invite fracking, or enact moratoriums preventing it. However, "I will absolutely begin the process on day one in an expedited fashion to set up the regulations that would be needed to move forward," Astorino stated.
Moving on to government ethics Astorino said, "Term limits are absolutely needed, and a great way to get new ideas and fresh blood (into the system)." He then pointed to his ten-point plan to address corruption in Albany released by his campaign on June 16 that covers a variety of government accountability measures.
Astorino also tagged Cuomo's fiscal responsibility as an illusion, saying "His budget surplus is all done with chewing gum and tape" and takes money from necessary programs like the state insurance fund.
The candidate projected that under Cuomo, there would be deficits over the next five years and that Cuomo had previously window-dressed his budgets for the public by saying he has created "the essence of a surplus."
Astorino said that budget shortfalls created by the Cuomo Administration can only be addressed by administrative cost reduction measures.
"Cuomo has reduced Department of Transportation funding for the area and Astorino will address the issue with a separate infrastructure fund that prioritizes local projects," Buckley said.
The Astorino campaign trails Cuomo significantly, both in early polls and in collecting campaign dollars. On the disparity Astorino insisted that his campaign will have enough money to be competitive and won't be going down without a fight. The gubernatorial challenger laid out a list of underdogs like George Pataki who won the office in 1994 despite being down in public polls on election day.
"It's going to be an Upstate vote," Astorino said, assuring those in attendance that they can look forward to seeing more of him between now and election day on Nov. 4.