Rob Astorino in Buffalo today, as he enters the race for NY governor

May 12, 2021

Another Republican entered next year’s race for governor Tuesday, with former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino throwing his hat in the ring for the party’s nomination.

Astorino first announced his campaign Tuesday morning on WOR and WABC radio. He was in Albany before coming to Plattsburgh and then traveled to Watertown and Utica. He is scheduled to visit Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo on Wednesday.

Astorino, who also ran for governor in 2014, said he wants to focus his campaign on revitalizing New York’s economy, curbing corruption in Albany and boosting education.

“The problem has been not just Andrew Cuomo … but this whole system up here has to be fixed,” Astorino said. “It’s broken and unfortunately the people of New York have responded by leaving.”

He said Cuomo is extraordinarily vulnerable in the 2022 election if the embattled Democrat seeks a fourth term. 

“There’s no question with all the corruption, with the federal investigations into the nursing home deaths and cover up, into the Tappan Zee Bridge scandal, which is the Cuomo Bridge down in Westchester-Rockland. You know the whole COVID situation has been a failure, I think in many ways. You know with the impeachment proceedings potentially, with the sexual harassment. So I think politically he’s in peril," Astorino said. "I’m running as much against Andrew Cuomo as I am against the failed policies and the corruption of New York. And it can be fixed. I did it in Westchester and I’ll do it in New York.”

Astorino is the third Republican to declare their candidacy for governor, following an announcement in April from Rep. Lee Zeldin and last year from Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli.

Since his announcement, Zeldin has garnered an endorsement from more than half the state’s county Republican chairs, and raised close to $3 million, according to his campaign.

But Astorino said Tuesday that Zeldin’s momentum won’t stop his campaign. He said the party’s nominee should be up to voters, not county chairs, and that he’s not planning to drop out of the race before next year’s primary, which is held in June.

“I’ve heard from some of them, quite frankly, that they were pressured to make an early endorsement, and that they’re going to keep an open mind,” Astorino said. “It’s the Republican voters who are going to make that choice, and again, this process is a very long ways away from a election or primary.”

If Astorino is selected as the party’s nominee, it would be a rematch between him and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Astorino managed to get 40% of the vote in that year’s race — outpacing Cuomo’s Republican challengers in both 2010 and 2018.

He said he would have cross-party appeal if he ran against Cuomo, and would be able to attract voters from groups that don’t traditionally side with Republicans in high margins, like Black voters and Spanish-speaking New Yorkers.

“I think at the end of the day I’m going to be the best general election candidate because in a county like Westchester, which is a very deep blue county … if you can win, like I did there, countywide and by bringing in new voters … then you can win statewide,” he said.

Astorino served two terms as Westchester County Executive before he was defeated in 2017 by Democrat George Latimer, who still holds the post today. He also ran for State Senate last year, but was unsuccessful. He’d been a CNN commentator for the last few years.

During his time in office, Astorino largely held the line on county property tax increases in Westchester County, which is no stranger to high real estate prices. One of his goals if elected, he said, would be to lower the cost of living at the state level.

“I think that should be our first goal: to be the most competitive, economically advantaged state in the northeast,” Astorino said. “We unfortunately are in dead last in all the wrong categories: in economic outlook, in job losses, in people leaving this state. Our budget is so bloated and, unfortunately, to feed the beast they keep having to add taxes which they do. That chases more people away and we just continue that death spiral."

Aside from Zeldin and Carpinelli, Astorino is also facing a potential challenge for the seat from Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who also ran against Cuomo, and a handful of other Republicans interested in the job.