Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said in an interview Thursday with Gannett’s Albany Bureau that he won’t decide whether to run for governor until early next year.
Democrats, if he runs, would undoubtedly attack him on his positions on social issues: He’s pro-life and doesn’t support same-sex marriage.
But Astorino downplayed the potential obstacles, saying that even in deep-blue New York, voters care more about pocketbook issues than social ones. He said Democrats tried to attack him on those issues, as well as gun control, in this year’s election, and he easily cruised to a second term.
He said New York has a law that legalizes same-sex marriage and an abortion law that dates back more than 40 years.
“That playbook has been used all over the country to anyone who is a Republican, and voters are not as dumb as some of those strategists think. Voters are smart,” Astorino said. “They understand what issues are important and what makes a difference in their lives, and nothing is more important than growing the economy and jobs.”
Astorino said he supports hydraulic fracturing in New York, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t decided on amid protests from environmentalists.
“With the proper safeguards, there’s no reason why we can’t move forward on that,” he said.
Asked where he stands on casino development, Astorino said: “If that’s the only economic stimulus, then we’re in trouble.” Westchester has Yonkers Raceway, one of the largest gaming halls in the country.
He said he was confident he could raise the money needed to challenge Cuomo, who had $28 million in the bank in July.
“This is New York, and it’s going to attract national attention, no matter who runs for governor. At the end of the day, the support will be there, for whoever the candidate is,” Astorino said.
Yet he questioned Cuomo’s likely push for publicly financed campaigns while at the same time raising big bucks.
“It would be pretty disingenuous to take large sums of money and then shut the door,” Astorino said. “Be consistent. He or anybody opposes high limits, then you should self enforce that, whether there’s a law or not.”
Astorino is expected to continue to focus on unfunded state mandates, saying that it is crushing local governments.
“At a minimum, the issues that would be raised in a governor’s race is what is ailing Westchester and everyone in our state,” Astorino said. “It’s the issues that are not being dealt in Albany that are crushing everyone — from a school level, on a municipal level and certainly counties.”