Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino launched a frontal assault on Gov. Cuomo Monday night on Cuomo’s native soil of Queens.
Astorino, the Republican nominee for governor, had acid words for Cuomo while speaking before a crowd of about 90 at the Queens Village Republican Club.
“The question I am asking everywhere I go is ‘Is New York winning or losing?’” Astorino said. “I’m here to say New York is losing, and losing badly. We are getting our clocks cleaned. We are 50th out of 50 — dead last — in any category that matters. We pay the highest taxes. We have the worst business environment. We spend more on education per student and we are in the bottom half of results.
“And it gets better,” he added. “The University of Illinois — Illinois! — just ranked us as the most corrupt state in the country,” he said. “It’s more than just a few people being charged by the U.S. attorney. With corruption, somebody has to pay those bills.”
And he pointed out that even the results of Cuomo’s corruption commission are being investigated by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for possible corruption.
Astorino also cited a recent rating by the AARP that listed New York as the worst place to retire.
“Four hundred thousand New Yorkers have left the state in the last three-and-a-half years, and they’re not coming back,” he said.
He said the same is true about jobs, saying they have fled the state to Florida, Georgia, Texas and North and South Carolina.
“They’ve practically become the sixth borough,” he said of the latter two.
He called a series of television commercials boasting of New York’s business success and job creation “a $150 million, taxpayer-funded campaign ad.”
The ads feature business leaders whose companies have moved to or expanded within the state. It also touts the “Startup New York” program by which certain companies can earn up to 100 percent tax relief for 10 years if they locate near and partner with a state college. York College in Jamaica has been designated as one of the schools participating in the program.
And Wall Street has placed confidence in the state’s economy of late.
In the last three weeks both Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings, two of the financial industry’s major bond-rating agencies, boosted the state’s credit rating,.
The higher a government’s credit rating, the less it must pay in interest to borrow money or issue bonds to pay for things like capital improvement projects.
Astorino said he does not subscribe to the conventional wisdom that he cannot win, citing his experience in blue Westchester County.
“It was 49 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican,” he said. “I was outspent $5.5 million to $1.3 million. I entered the race right about the same time I did here, and was 30 points down.
“We won by 13 points on Election Day,” Astorino said. “... If we can raise enough money, we can win this thing.”
And he appears to be very sincere when saying he wants to offer voters clear distinctions between his own policies and those of the governor, as well as the president and the mayor.
“I’m running against three people,” he said. “Barack Obama, and the ticket of Cuomo and de Blasio.”
Astorino said he would follow the same formula he has in Westchester, such as cutting spending and leveling or lowering tax rates each of the last four years.
“When I took over, our budget was $1.8 billion,” he said, “Now it’s $1.7 billion. We live within our means.”
He also said Westchester is the fourth-most diverse county in the state, with 22 percent of its residents being Hispanic — the Spanish-speaking Astorino won the Hispanic vote last year — and 15 percent African American.
Astorino said half of the vote on Nov. 4 will be cast upstate. He also sees the possibility of winning if he can secure 30 to 32 percent of the New York City vote.
“Which is just a few more points than Joe Lhota did,” he said of the GOP standard-bearer who lost to Mayor de Blasio in November.
“And remember, Gov. Cuomo has approval ratings in the low 40s,” he said.
Astorino said his support of a strong education system should be clear with his three children attending public school.
The county executive favors exploration of natural gas that his campaign says can create thousands of jobs, add billions in state revenue and lower electric bills, though his literature does not call it by the vernacular term “fracking.”
He also did not shy away from controversial current events in a question-and -answer session after his talk when asked about Monday’s ruling that carved out exemptions on religious grounds to the birth-control mandate in the president’s Affordable Care Act.
“Thank God for the United States Supreme Court,” he said.
The county executive said he believes Republicans will take numerical control of the state Senate this year, but that he has worked well with Democratic majorities in his county since taking office..