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Rob Astorino enters race for NY governor, seeking rematch with Cuomo

New York Now

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, 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.”

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.

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.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.