Astorino, mulling another run, says Cuomo has been exposed
COLONIE — A little over a year has passed since he lost decisively to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Westchester County executive Rob Astorino says the critique he raised in his campaign grows stronger every day and he's “seriously considering” another run against the Democratic incumbent in 2018.
“People realize now that all the messaging that Cuomo had was the Wizard of Oz — it was a smokescreen,” Astorino told reporters after making a speech to the state Conservative Party's annual political action conference. “Nobody is, I think, afraid of the governor anymore, quite frankly, and his policies are making it worse. He's a chameleon: one day he said he's a conservative, then he's a moderate, now he's a liberal. When you don't have a core principle nobody knows where you're going to stand when the wind blows strong. He's basically abandoned all his principles for expediency, and I think every group is starting to realize that.”
Astorino was one of a quartet of candidates who swung through the conference, cognizant that any upwardly mobile Republican needs the Conservative Party's line to be successful in a statewide race. On Sunday, Rep. Chris Gibson spoke about national security and Harry Wilson, a former candidate for comptroller, criticized Cuomo's use of business subsidies.
Astorino was greeted warmly by the dozens of attendees at this year's CPAC, held as always in the ballroom of a hotel here in exurban Albany. He said he still had an active base of 6,000 volunteers, and dismissed a criticism by Gibson that running for re-election in 2017 would impede his ability to raise funds for a gubernatorial campaign.
During his speech, Astorino spoke about national Democrats and blamed Barack Obama for polarizing the country, accusing him of “declaring war on the American suburb” through a lawsuit that the Department of Housing and Urban Development brought against Westchester over zoning codes that have made it difficult to build multi-family, low-income housing.
But mostly Astorino aimed at Cuomo, who he called an “extreme-liberal con artist.”
This is in line with his 2014 campaign, which Astorino turned into a referendum on Cuomo's policies, but his new critique included the governor's recent support for a $15 minimum wage, which Astorino said was a “made-up number” based on polling data.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi did not return an email seeking comment, but in a tweet compared Astorino to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a creation of late-night host Conan O'Brien and humorist Robert Smigel.
Monday's conference was opened by Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro, another Republican mentioned by party machers as a solid player on their bench. But while Molinaro criticized state government, he made clear he wasn't a candidate for anything, praised Astorino and repeated the same line he told reporters who inquired in 2015 about his ambitions: He takes his grandfather's advice, to “do your job well and they'll consider you for a promotion.”
Both Molinaro and Astorino are heading to the annual conference of the New York State Association of Counties, at a nearby exurban hotel, and Molinaro rehashed the familiar laments of county executives during his speech to the conservatives: state mandates suck.
In particular, Molinaro took aim at Cuomo's argument that the large number of local government entities — including the small village of Tivoli, where Molinaro was a boy mayor — are driving up costs.
“The problem is not that local governments exist, it's that Albany spends — it borrows and it taxes continually and wants you to believe that with a slick advertisement and a corny message that we're doing better,” he said.