Reality Check: Rob Astorino Unplugged – Part II

A Candid Discussion With The Republican Candidate For Governor Of New York


Mere weeks removed from Election Day, the second part of a discussion with Republican candidate for governor of New York State, my friend, Rob Astorino, in which we begin with the ubiquitous attack ads lobbed by his opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Let’s talk about these negative ads. First off, they’re hilariously bad. There is always this picture of you that looks like you are trying to kill somebody’s grandmother. It’s amazing how they put these things together. I have to ask, where the hell is Reince Priebus and where is the national Republican Party providing you the funds to combat this? I never see any ads with you hitting him back. Is it because you don’t have that kind of cash flow now or what’s going on with that?

Well, we just went up on TV, but it’s nowhere near what we need on a regular basis. But it is having an effect, because I am seeing the numbers going up, his numbers are going down and it’s been consistent, really. The fact that he spent 16 million dollars so far on pure negative ads and he’s been on a steady decline and we’ve been slowly but surely going forward and up tells you something. I don’t think people are buying it. It’s so over the top. It’s so outrageous.

It’s all based on two dubious at-best characters. One is this is a civil lawsuit that was filed against me and 100 people last year right before my county executive race. It was all meant to be a political hit on me. The two people that this lawsuit was filed by, and that is the basis for Cuomo’s whole negative ads against me, is one guy [who] is an independent party chairman in Westchester who was being investigated for no-show jobs and pay-to-play scams, a pension scandal by the Moreland Commission that Cuomo shut down to protect him and then took the nomination by the Independent Party. The other guy, Sam Zurica, is a strip club owner, who has filed lawsuits like we brush our teeth. Every day it’s against someone else. He was arrested and indicted by a federal grand jury last week on tax evasion and many other fraud claims. He has such a violent history that the federal judge is refusing bail. He has to stay in jail until his trial. These are the two characters that have filed a lawsuit against me last year before the election.

What about the charges of cronyism?

Yeah, it tries to make it look like it’s all patronage when these are a few positions and most every position is civil service. There are a few exempt positions where I can appoint and I do. I appoint qualified people who are going to be loyal to me. Should I do hire Cuomo’s people?

I thought we were past that when the president of the United States’ brother was the attorney general.

Yeah, no that’s okay.

There are just certain things that are part of politics—you win and that’s the perks of winning; you get to put people in there that you want to put in.

Exactly, as long as they’re qualified.

That’s why I am waiting for my job.

I don’t understand why the Republican Party has not come to your aid on this. Is it because they feel it’s a state they can just give away? That’s what these power politics guys do; they say, “Well we can’t win New York, so let’s dump all our money into Arkansas or somewhere else.” I get that, but it seems like all the garbage is flowing one way.

Well, that’s why the Republican Party will never win consistently unless they start investing and building their party in states that are blue and turn them purple and then eventually turn them red. If they don’t want to invest any money anywhere they are never going to have success. Anyone looking at the polls, anyone who knows how to read polls will know this is the race to invest in. We have a very weak incumbent now with big issues; a federal investigation against him for corruption, an economy that is ranked dead last in America with mass exodus of people, highest taxes, worst business climate and an incumbent that just lost 40 percent in his own primary. The polls have him under 50 percent now. There would be no bigger prize in America for the Republican Party than for them to win the governorship of New York.

Is there going to be a Left Wing party that is going to run a third candidate in this thing?

There’s a Green Party candidate, yeah. This guy, Howie Hawkins, he’s the Green Party. The Green Party is the far Left and he is absolutely able to siphon away from Cuomo. It’s possible he could be the Ralph Nader of the 2000 election.

Are there going to be debates coming up in the next couple weeks or what?

Cuomo is going to try to run the clock out. He is going to an undisclosed location with Cheney until Nov. 4. He doesn’t want to sit there and have to defend his record to the public, who he has completely disregarded. He doesn’t want to talk to the press and doesn’t talk to the public. Any events he does are staged and he leaves immediately, so he doesn’t have to talk about a second term, which he refuses to do. He doesn’t have to defend the ridiculous, false ads he runs against me. He doesn’t have to defend why he underpaid his property taxes by $30,000, because he didn’t take out building permits for all the work he did on his house. He doesn’t have to defend why he’s being investigated for corruption by federal prosecutors. These are things he doesn’t want to talk about, along with the economy and job loss and people loss. So, he’s going to try to do everything to run out the clock.

He has an obligation. I have accepted all five of the invitations we got from the media for legitimate public debates. Last year when I was running for election and I was up in the polls and my opponent was a Harvard trained debater, I debated five times. I could have played it safe, debated once or not debated at all, but I debated him five times, because I believe very much in the importance of the dialogue.

So how is the family doing with all this? Every time I talked to Sheila [Rob’s wife] in the past, you know, it takes a big toll. Obviously you’re traveling all the time.

I have to tell you it’s been much more manageable than I expected. I am able to get home more nights than I thought. Some nights later than others, but I do get to see everybody in the morning. I am waking up in my own bed, so I get to see everybody. So it’s not as bad as I expected with regard to travel, because we make an effort to get home. It’s tiring, it’s a big state. The good news in the summer is Sean [his eldest son] traveled with me for trips. Kylie [his eldest daughter] came on a trip. We all went on a trip together where we started in Niagara Falls. Went to Letchworth State Park, which is gorgeous. We ended up at the Finger Lakes and went to the State Fair in Syracuse. So we got to do some things together. Before we know it it’s going to be over with. Win, lose or draw, we’ll have a great experience and maybe having the honor of leading the state of New York.



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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Y”.