No Turning Back

Rob Astorino is running for governor.


Over the past three months, there have been a few possible interpretations of his intentions.

  • Post-re-election trip to P.R. and the GOP governors’ conference could have just been a well-deserved victory lap.

  • Subsequent flirting in Albany might have been to burnish his image at home and pick up contributions from upstate donors to fund additional pick-ups in Westchester 2015.

  • January tough-talk could have been a tryout for designated media guest during Cuomo’s cakewalk against Paladino/Trump, creating a what-if fantasy that would set him up for 2018.

But now that he’s registered Astorino for Governor, it’s on. If he were to back out now, NY Republicans have no one else to run, and they’ll blame him for stealing the wind from any other possible mainstream candidate. His flirting will look like teasing, which no one enjoys in public.

His folks are calling this an exploratory committee, but there’s no such thing in state law. It’s a campaign committee, with his name on it, registered to the same South Salem post office as his re-election committee. No more pretending otherwise.

Why Westchester Democrats Want Astorino to Run

Because he’ll say more things like this about New York’s popular gun control measures.

Rob AstorinoRob Astorino thinks that voters make informed, rational, non-partisan choices. He likes to tell the story of how political experts called him crazy in 2009 if he thought a pro-life candidate could win in Westchester. But he is proudly pro-life, he would not pretend otherwise — and boy did he show those so-called experts. Voters veered from Row A just to vote for him. He’s that special.

He did it again in 2013. The Bramson campaign painted him as a typical Tea Party Republican — opposed to abortion even when a woman’s health is at risk, opposed to a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, opposed to marriage equality — but voters just liked him so much they overlooked all the spooky right-wing innuendo. They (a) thought the values issues weren’t relevant to the job of county executive; (b) cared about nothing but taxes; and/or (c) were brainwashed by the “Westchester Just Can’t Afford Noam Bramson” media onslaught.

But if Astorino runs for governor, those factors will all play in the opposite direction. His right-wing views on guns, women, and gays will be amplified by a state-wide campaign and matter to voters very much more than they do in an off-year local election. His carefully drawn bipartisan smile will start to look very different to the Democrats and independents who split their votes in November, and they’ll start to judge his other policies in the context of his Carl Paladino compliments.

Westchester Democrats have been looking for an opening to criticize Astorino for five years; if he runs for governor, they’ll finally have it.

Astorino Flirts in Albany

Rob Astorino continues to flirt with a bid for governor this year. With the Albany press corps yesterday, Astorino criticized Cuomo’s tax cut plan (Newsday); called Cuomo’s proposal for limited medical marijuana a road to “increased drug abuse” (Post); and blamed Cuomo for Albany corruption, high taxes, and a bad environment for business (Politicker).

Meanwhile, he says he’s 50-50 on running for office and will decide in the next 60 days (Times Union).

Click for video Q&A.
Click for video Q&A.

Astorino is taking advantage of his moment. He may still decide not to run, but his profile will have been raised in the state and across the country, his stature in Westchester will be increased, and I would look for him to show up more often on Fox News as a critic of Cuomo during this election year.

Westchester Power Shift Solidifies

Rob Astorino won re-election in November by almost the same large margin that first made him Westchester County Executive in 2009. But voters also returned the 10-7 Democratic majority to the Board of Legislators, seeming to set up another term of divided legislative priorities and costly lawsuits.

Kaplowitz and Maisano flank Astorino signing 2013 budget.
Kaplowitz and Maisano flank Astorino signing 2013 budget.

Except that Democratic majority has been in name only ever since two Democrats from opposite ends of the county — Mike Kaplowitz and Virginia Perez — signed on to Astorino’s 2013 budget over a year ago. That’s when Board Chairman Ken Jenkins flipped out the lights and Republican Jim Maisano picked up the gavel. Kaplowitz and Perez were shut out of caucus meetings after that, and control of the Board of Legislators was left in limbo during the 2013 election year (though the Dems ran a unified slate, with Kaplowitz and Perez both publicly supporting Noam Bramson over Astorino).

But the minority party has now officially taken over, with the seven Republicans and two rogue Democrats creating a governing majority. Kaplowitz was installed yesterday as Chairman, while Maisano was selected as Vice Chair.

Astorino’s policies will gain the sheepskin of bipartisanship; but he effectively rode that message anyway before this realignment was official. The pushback from the Dem legislators will now sound even more shrill, as is always the case from a party out of power; but neither the Jenkins lawsuit strategy nor the Bramson values strategy left any mark on Astorino’s shine. The new leadership positions for Kaplowitz and Maisano just solidify the reality already decided on November 5, when Democrats failed to beat Astorino or pick up an extra seat in the legislature.

Yeah, exactly the same.

Have you seen this on Metro-North?
Have you seen this on Metro-North?
Exactly? If by “making more money” you mean “paving your own street” and “hauling your own trash” and “spending the whole day teaching your own kids to read” and “capturing terrorists in your spare time” … then, yeah, they’re exactly the same.

Based upon the totality of the information submitted, there is sufficient documentation for use of the word “bullshit”

Is it really possible for a political candidate to call his opponent an “asshole” and then back that up with documentation? Of course not. There’s a clear difference between a well-supported case against a person’s character and an insult.

But the Westchester group that polices candidates for unfair campaigning, the Fair Campaign Practices Committee, ruled this week that’s it’s okay — “based upon the totality of the information and documentation submitted” — to call Bob Cohen a “slumlord”.

You don’t have to be a fan of Republican Bob Cohen, running for the State Senate in a gerrymandered district designed by state Republicans to give them another seat in Albany, to think this ruling is bullshit. But it’s not unusual. The FCPC often issues arbitrary black/white findings without revealing much about its deliberations.

If the FCPC doesn’t recognize an insult when it sees one, it should get out of the fact-checking business.

What are the facts? Bob Cohen owns apartment buildings in NYC that have been sited for gambling, drug dealing, mice, and roaches. The NYPD has been involved. Ok, that’s not great, and fair game in a tight campaign. But a mailing from Cohen’s opponent, Democrat George Latimer, drops the word “slumlord” to describe Cohen right up front. Cohen complained to the FCPC, and the FCPC ruled the use of the word “fair”.

Now Latimer’s campaign — obviously gleeful — gets to call their opponent “Slumlord Bob Cohen” in every statement for the next two weeks.

If the FCPC doesn’t recognize an insult when it sees one, it should get out of the fact-checking business. (And candidates should think about boycotting the FCPC, to stop puffing up this bullshit.)