Category Archives: Rob Astorino

Debating Debates

Republican gubernatorial challenger Rob Astorino’s hope of at least one statewide televised debate one-on-one with Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed to fade even further on Monday, as he declined an invitation to a radio debate which Cuomo had previously accepted.  Astorino announced that he has accepted five televised debate invitations from a variety of hosts and sponsors, but which Cuomo has not accepted, plus an additional multi-candidate debate on Buffalo’s public television station that Governor Cuomo has accepted.

Astorino characterized the invitation which he declined as “not even a debate, it’s a joint radio appearance, an interview.”  He’s been pressing for one-on-one televised debates with Cuomo (here, here and here for example), but the governor has largely ignored those demands. Here’s what Astorino had to say Monday:

N.B.  What would a one-on-one televised debate between Cuomo and Astorino look like? Here’s our version.

Tappan Zee Day

Governor Andrew Cuomo and gubernatorial rival Rob Astorino held dueling Hudson River press conferences today, Cuomo mid-river and Astorino on the east bank.  Governor Cuomo lauded the arrival of a giant crane, dubbed the “Left Coast Lifter” and redubbed the “I Lift NY”, which will be used for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge and demolition of the old.

Cuomo Gaggle:

After making remarks on the rear deck of the ferry with the crane and the bridge behind him, Governor Cuomo held a press gaggle inside the ferry.  Camera operators and reporters (well, me at least) periodically lurched about, rolling with motion of the ferry as the governor leaned on a pole, made an opening statement on the “design/build” process used for the bridge and on a proposed “infrastructure bank” and answered questions.  Question topics included the expected new bridge tolls, a toll and finance task force expected to have already been created, whether it’s “overtly political” to not announce new tolls before the November election, whether there continues to be a $3.9 billion cap on the bridge cost, two Hudson Valley state senate races, how the crane was named, ebola and whether he anticipates limiting travelers into New York and Amtrak’s announced plan to close four tunnels for lengthy repair work.  Here is his full gaggle:

Astorino Q&A:

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held a press conference shortly after Cuomo’s, just upriver from the Tappan Zee.  He was joined by Rockland County Executive Ed Day and three Republican legislative candidates.  After an opening statement Astorino answered press questions including use of bank settlement money to fund the construction and why not use tolls to finance the new bridge, how he would pay for other infrastructure projects, whether Astorino is certain that Cuomo will not use bank settlement money for the new bridge, what he expects the new bridge tolls to be, whether local residents should pay reduced tolls, whether Rep. Nita Lowey is working with the two county executives, what he would do differently on other infrastructure projects and why he declined a radio debate invitation.  Here is his full Q&A.


Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino has accused Governor, and former HUD Secretary, Andrew Cuomo of “race-baiting” in comments related a long running lawsuit between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Westchester County.

Here’s a look at what Astorino said and Cuomo’s reaction when we spoke with him in Syracuse on Saturday.

Astorino v. HUD & Cuomo

For a second day Rob Astorino continued castigating Andrew Cuomo for his comments supporting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in it’s continuing dispute with Westchester County, holding a press conference at New Castle’s Town Hall.  Cuomo lives in the Mt. Kisco section of New Castle.


I asked Astorino about the role of Astorino’s predecessor Andy Spano and Spano’s then-deputy Larry Schwartz in the HUD/Westechester County settlement that is now at issue.  Spano was Westchester County Executive from 1998 through 2009 and Schwartz was his deputy for most of his tenure.  Both now work in the Cuomo administration, Spano as a commissioner on the Board of Elections and Schwartz as secretary to the governor.

Astorino Statement:

Here is Astorino’s full statement, which begins with the statement that “Andrew Cuomo thinks Hillary Clinton’s town is racially discriminatory.”


I asked Astorino about his relationship, if any, with the Rev. Al Sharpton.  Sharpton, feted by Governor Cuomo and many other elected officials last night, is closely allied with the Obama administration.  He remains a polarizing figure to many, however, although some Republican candidates and officials readily engage with him.  In a March sermon in Mount Vernon Sharpton called for Astorino to comply with HUD’s demands.

Astorino Attacks

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino racheted up his attacks on rival Andrew Cuomo today, releasing a TV ad modeled on Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” ad.  It’s a curious choice, with the paradox that Astorino’s candidacy more closely resembles Barry Goldwater’s campaign, the target of the Daisy ad who lost in a landslide, than Lyndon Johnson’s.

At a press conference in front of the federal courthouse in White Plains Astorino spoke about his new ad and the race.


Asked about weekend reports that Governor Cuomo has accepted two debate invitations Astorino pointedly began by saying “we haven’t agreed to anything.”  He stated that “we have had no discussions whatsoever and the whole thing looks like a setup and a scam.”

Astorino Loves Green (Updated x 2)

Environmentally speaking that is.  Not Jets Green.  Today Rob Astorino spoke to a “Green Cities” group, discussing his eco-friendly actions as Westchester County Executive.  We spoke with him afterward on several topics.


Saying he’s “done with the double talk”, Astorino labeled Cuomo’s reported statement this morning that the “campaigns” are “working that out now” as “nonsense.”

Ballot Issues:

There are three ballot propositions going before voters statewide in November: A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a redistricting commission (with members to be appointed by legislative leaders), a constitutional amendment to permit electronic distribution to state legislators of pending bills, and a $2 billion school bond issue.  I asked Astorino for his view on each.

Long Island Legislative Races:

Two legislative races on Long Island have recently drawn attention for unsavory behavior.  In the 8th Senate District, Democrat David Denenberg has dropped out of the race after being sued by his former law firm for alleged falsifying client bills and expense reimbursements.  Democratic party leaders have sought to have him nominated for election as a judge, one of the only ways to get his name off the ballot.  In the 3rd Assembly District, Republican incumbent Edward Hennessy has acknowledged that his campaign placed a GPS tracking device on his Democratic opponent’s car.  Republican leaders have defended that action.

I asked Astorino about both races:

Chris, Rob & The Early Arrival

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino arrived at a campaign event 30 minutes ahead of it’s scheduled start Tuesday, to Christine Quinn’s consternation.

Quinn, former speaker of the New York City Council, is the chief public face of the “Women’s Equality Party”, a ballot line recently created by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and she hoped to confront Astorino with a pledge that Team Cuomo is pushing.  The pledge essentially provides that signatories will support legislation next year on a “Women’s Equality Plan”, covering a variety of issues ranging from pay equity to human trafficking laws to “allow[ing] for the recovery of attorneys’ fees in employment and credit and lending cases.”  Most contentious, however, is a proposed codification of abortion rights.  Should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned, and states permitted to determine state by state whether abortion is legal, that would become a significant legal matter.

Astorino says he supports nine of the ten points in the “Women’s Equality Plan”, objecting to the codification of abortion rights.  Team Cuomo has been pushing the Women’s Equality Party and Women’s Equality Plan in an effort to highlight Astorino’s opposition to allowing abortions, and Quinn sought a face to face moment Tuesday.  Here’s what happened.

Cuomo Astorino Debate

Yes.  Really.  We exclusively have the first Cuomo/Astorino debate.

Created through the magic of editing, we have a virtual debate between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger Rob Astorino.  In our first-in-the-state debate the candidates lay out their respective presentations on some serious issues; among them New York’s overall financial and economic condition, property taxes, Start Up NY and fracking.

We’ve primarily used video from their appearances at the Business Council of New York State last Thursday and Friday, although we’ve also incorporated other recent press conferences.

Handshakes, Chapter 2 (Updated)

Rob Astorino and Andrew Cuomo shook hands this morning.  It was a different outcome than Zephyr Teachout’s infamous attempt to shake hands with the governor, involving an actual handshake, albeit quick with a very brief back and forth.

Astorino spoke to the New York State Business Council Thursday night, giving some pointed critiques of the business community’s support of Governor Cuomo.  His remarks are a sign of the challenges Astorino faces, as traditional supporters of Republican candidates embrace his Democratic opponent.  Astorino has struggled for attention as well as support, with a modest amount of money and many potential supporters convinced from the start that he will lose.  Cuomo has mostly publicly ignored Astorino, further limiting his exposure.

Astorino stayed overnight at the conference, held at the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George, and came to the morning conference session just before Governor Cuomo’s scheduled speech.  He worked the room, greeting all present and talking with reporters before moving toward the stage entrance.  Here’s what happened as Cuomo entered the conference room:

Update – Gaggles:

Astorino and Cuomo separately spoke with the press this morning, Astorino before Cuomo’s speech and Cuomo afterwards.


Astorino was asked why he was present, (it’s a good place to be), kiddingly responding “he’s coming here this morning?” when asked if he intended to say hello to the governor.  Other question topics included reports that the governor’s staff tried to have him bumped from the conference schedule, whether he expected or sought an endorsement from the Council and the federal indictment of Sam Zherka, who is a plaintiff suing Astorino.


A frequently bemused, even goofy, Cuomo covered a wider range of topics, although he was asked about his handshake with Astorino and his thoughts on Astorino appearing this morning (“I hope he enjoyed it.”)  He was extensively asked about the state senate, including business community concerns about how a Democratic senate could affect state policies and whether he plans to assist Republican Senator Mark Grisanti.  Other topics included plans for spending the billions of dollars recently received by the state from penalties and settlements with large financial institutions, debating Astorino (“we will have, uh … we will debate), local government consolidations whether he will commit to serving a full four year term if re-elected (“what if I die?”) and the recent court decision removing the word “independent” from the ballot issue description of a proposed constitutional amendment changing the redistricting process.

Astorino At The Business Council

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino confronted a lost constituency Thursday night, politely, but pointedly, criticizing the business community for supporting Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Typical electoral expectations suggest that Republican Astorino would be supported by the business community broadly, and the Business Council specifically.  The Council, however, is expected to endorse Cuomo on Friday, and Cuomo has received enormous financial contributions from a wide range of the business community.  Astorino began his speech to the Council by saying that “your graciousness makes it a little harder to say what I came here to say.”  Here are selected excerpts from Astorino’s speech:

His post-speech discussion with press, with a focus on his speech, is here.