Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino was in Johnstown on Monday at the Pine Tree Rifle Club, where he received a warm welcome from local residents and state officials.
Astorino spoke about his campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a crowd of more than 50 people, where he criticized Cuomo for the state’s gun control law passed last year.
“Cuomo took away your rights, then you just have to take away his job,” Astorino said, followed by loud applause from the audience. “This is not a New York City-based race, this is upstate. Almost half of the vote in this election will come from counties like Fulton and upstate New York, so you can make it happen.”
Astorino asked the crowd, “Who here is a gun owner?” A majority of people raised their hands. “OK, good,” Astorino laughed. “When the SAFE Act was passed, I came out immediately and denounced it.”
The NY SAFE Act, which Cuomo signed into law in January 2013, establishes a ban on assault weapons, creates a registry for state residents who already owned assault weapons and requires ammunition dealers to perform background checks, along with background checks on all gun sales in New York.
Astorino’s visit to Johnstown comes a few weeks after a pro-gun rally at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, where he spoke to a crowd of thousands of people.
On Monday, Astorino pushed for residents in Fulton County and surrounding neighborhoods who are not registered to vote to do so for this year’s election because, “that’s what Cuomo fears the most.”
“Here’s how scared Cuomo is: He started on television today, in the New York City market, attacking me,” Astorino said. “Slandering already? All of the disgusting in the mud stuff that you would expect from somebody who is hearing about losing his job. So we will shock them in November, and you are going to be a big part of that.”
The Westchester County executive bashed Cuomo for the NY SAFE Act, business tax incentive program START-UP NY and the state’s poor rankings for business tax climate and job creation. Astorino has not released his plan to attract businesses and create jobs.
Cuomo’s START-UP NY program tries to attract businesses to the state by offering them space on or near college campuses with the benefit of operating tax-free for 10 years. The University at Albany and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering were among the first schools approved under the initiative.
“That’s why businesses are fleeing this state,” Astorino said, referring to the state’s business climate. “And where are they going? They’re going to Texas and they’re going to Florida. They are going everywhere but here. And you know what’s following them? People.”
Astorino also slammed Cuomo on the state’s Common Core learning standards and distribution of education aid among districts across the state. He said high-needs districts like Schenectady require additional funding, and Cuomo “is not giving it to them.”
Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny, Republican opponents vying for the 21st Congressional District seat being left vacant by Bill Owens, attended Astorino’s event and supported him for governor.
Doheny said he “will never raise your taxes” and that “when it comes to the Second Amendment, you have a true friend.” He touted Astorino’s goals to lower taxes, repeal the SAFE Act and spur job creation in New York.
Following Doheny, Stefanik took the stage and asked the crowd, “How many of you are going to work to make sure Cuomo is out of here and Rob Astorino is our next governor? Raise your hands.” Everybody raised their hands.
“My priorities in this run for Congress is to create jobs and economic opportunity,” Stefanik said. “We are losing our best and our brightest, as Rob talked about, to other states across the country. We need to ensure that our young people stay here, work here and raise their families here.”
Stefanik has received endorsements from Republican committees and the Conservative Party, which is expected to be a boost in the June 24 Republican primary.
Also supporting Astorino for governor are state Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, and Fulton County Sheriff Tom Lorey. Both said they are impressed with Astorino as a candidate, who was elected for a second term as county executive in Westchester, which has a majority of Democrats.
“I can assure you that this group of people assembled here will probably vote for Rob Astorino because of his view of the SAFE Act,” Lorey said. “I think the only thing he is lacking politically is name recognition, but we’re going to change that.”
As Astorino prepared to leave Johnstown, he told local residents that he would continue to travel across the state and gain momentum in his race against Cuomo.
“The timing is right, folks. The issues are with us and Cuomo knows that. That’s why he is already down and dirty and in the mud and attacking my good name, and we’re not even into May yet,” Astorino said. “So let’s win this, let’s win this together, and let’s show them in November who is really the boss of New York.”