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May 21, 2014

In Our Opinion: Astorino giving voters a real choice

The Daily Star

---- — We were happy to see Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, visit Cooperstown on Thursday night at a dinner sponsored by the Otsego County Republican Party.

This happiness stems from several reasons.

One is that Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is a credible candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November. That alone is a refreshing change from four years ago, when the best the GOP could come up with was loopy Carl Paladino.

Make no mistake about it, Astorino is going into the election a massive underdog in this very blue state. Even as Cuomo’s approval rating has fallen, he still leads Astorino by 40 points in some polls. But Astorino has defied the odds before, getting elected in Westchester County, where Democrats have nearly a 2-1 voter registration advantage.

Another reason we are happy to see Astorino in the race is that unlike Paladino — whose personal behavior and political views were so “out there” that he couldn’t manage a serious challenge to Cuomo — Astorino is giving New Yorkers a clear choice based mostly on issues rather than personalities.

Astorino has come out in favor of horizontal fracking in pursuit of natural gas, while Cuomo has been stalling, attempting not to offend constituents on both sides of the issue until after the election.

“The science is already settled on this,” Astorino said. “That’s why 30 states are doing it.”

If elected, he said, he will direct the state Department of Environmental Conservation to give him its recommendations on hydrofracking within 60 days.

State Democrats note that Astorino signed Westchester County legislation in 2012 listing fracking waste as toxic, radioactive and a significant health risk. But he appears to be gung-ho in favor now, and that gives voters a choice.

Another choice will be on the matter of guns. In an interview with The Daily Star before his speech, Astorino criticized the New York SAFE Act, pushed through the Legislature by Cuomo last year in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Mass.

“It’s simply a bad law that did nothing to make any New Yorkers safer,” Astorino said. “All it did was make law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight.”

Astorino said his formula for beating Cuomo entails winning the majority of votes upstate, doing well in the suburbs, and getting at least 30 percent in New York City. His views on fracking and gun control will not play as well in the five boroughs as they do up here, and that could make that 30 percent a bridge too far.

Toward that end, we will watch closely during the next five months to see if Astorino will be giving the same kind of speeches downstate as he did in Cooperstown.