A top Republican county official from New York City's northern suburbs took his new campaign for governor on the road Thursday by appealing for votes in the Bronx.
A day after he announced he was running, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino stood on the steps of the Bronx courthouse and criticized incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo's leadership.
Astorino said 400,000 New Yorkers have fled the state in search of a better business climate and lower taxes.
"We have to lower taxes in this state so that everyone has an opportunity and a chance, either to start a business or to have a family," he said.
The Republican kicked off his campaign tour in the Bronx because the county has been "forgotten economically" by the nation, he said, and touted his Hispanic voter base in Westchester County. The Bronx is the state's only county with a majority Hispanic population.
The candidate drew applause when he repeated his announcement in Spanish.
"I'm going to ask every New Yorker the same question: Are we winning or are we losing as a state?" he said. "If we are winning, then just re-elect Andrew Cuomo. But if we are losing — and I believe strongly that we are losing as a state — then we're going to have to make a U-turn and a change of direction."
He also planned to campaign in Buffalo later Thursday.
He greeted about a dozen supporters who stood behind him during the speech. About a dozen abortion rights activists from NARAL held anti-Astorino signs in a silent protest nearby.
Astorino shrugged off questions from reporters about Cuomo's sizable lead in the polls, saying polls go up and down. About twice as many Democrats as Republicans are registered to vote in New York.
A new NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Thursday shows Cuomo maintaining a strong lead over potential challengers but a sharp drop in his job approval rating among registered voters feeling tough economic times.
The poll has Cuomo leading Astorino by 40 percentage points and similar margins over other potential contenders, Donald Trump and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino.
One major change since a November poll is a 10-point drop in the percentage of voters who believe Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist poll. The number fell from 52 percent to 42 percent, driven by substantial declines among African-American and Latino voters.
The poll surveyed 658 registered voters from Friday through Monday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.