With the words, “We can win,” recently- declared Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino spoke at the Northeast Queens Republican Club’s monthly meeting on April 16, asserting his intention to defeat Gov. Cuomo, the Democratic incumbent, in November’s election.
The club’s new president, Kevin Ryan, introduced Astorino by suggesting the party needs a candidate “who can energize the base” and noting, “That’s a very tall order.”
Many Republicans already consider Cuomo a shoo-in for re-election. And an assortment of recent polls shows Astorino lagging at least 30 percentage points behind Cuomo in a potential faceoff.
But Astorino has never been one to back down when the odds were against him. After losing to Democrat Andy Spano in the race for Westchester county executive in 2005, Astorino surprised many when he defeated the incumbent four years later by a double-digit margin.
“We can win in New York,” Astorino repeatedly told his supporters at the meeting, held at the Clearview Golf Course clubhouse in Bayside. “It’s been an exciting five weeks,” he said of the time since he officially announced his candidacy.
“Queens has always been a big part of my family,” he said. His mother, he pointed out, grew up in Corona.
“Why am I running? Under this governor, as a state, are we winning or are we losing?” he asked.
“In life, we are either moving ahead or falling back. Under any objective standard, as a state, we are losing badly,” the candidate said. “I can win in this kind of year.”
He pointed out New York has the highest taxes in America, suggesting they are 40 percent above the national average.
“We’re the most corrupt state in America,” he said. “People are hurting. They’re starting to lose hope.”
Claiming that New Yorkers are making a mass exodus to other parts of the country, he said, “They’ve thrown in the towel.”
In one of many attempts to inject humor into his presentation, Astorino asked why so many Italians are named Tony. The name, he joked, came from their passports being stamped “To NY,” adding, “They’re not stamping that any more.”
To further illustrate the need for change, Astorino asked the audience of about 70 people, many of them already collecting Social Security, to think about who is working behind the cash registers at many of their local stores.
“Senior citizens,” he told them. “because they need income. That’s what losing looks like.”
When he ran for county executive in 2009, he did so, he said, to stop the “tax madness.” He said he had been told, “You can’t win.”
He ran and did, in fact, prove victorious. He chalks it up to his belief that he “offered an alternative. We had the right message.”
Since taking office, Astorino said he has not only lowered taxes, but “wiped out deficit, prioritized, helped those in need.”
He ran successfully for re-election in November.
He suggested that in the gubernatorial race, between 44 and 50 percent of the total vote comes from upstate.
“We’re already winning big up there,” he said. “If we do well in Westchester and win in Long Island, Andrew Cuomo’s going to find a new job in January.”
The GOP hopeful previously served as program director of Sirius Satellite Radio’s the Catholic Channel and hosted a weekly program with Cardinal Edward Egan.
Astorino, 46, resides in Mount Pleasant with his wife and three children. He received a BA from Fordham University.