Announcing the formation of “Democrats for Astorino” as part of his reelection campaign, County Executive Rob Astorino picked up the endorsement Thursday of the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, a prominent African-American minister and pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, and former New Rochelle Assemblyman Ron Tocci.
He was also endorsed by Martine Fleishman of Harrison, who has served in leadership positions in several Jewish organizations, including the National Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee, and Nancy Zaro, until recently the associate executive director of the Westchester Jewish Council.
Richardson, who spoke with the others (except Fleishman) at one of the housing developments built by Grace Church’s community development organization in Mount Vernon, said he supports Astorino because he has reversed a longstanding trend of government ignoring Mount Vernon.
“He has made himself available, accessible to my requests,” Richardson said. “I’ve gone to him over and over again on behalf of our community and he’s never turned a deaf ear.”
He noted that Astorino had made available $45,000 for Grace Freedom School and he is asking him to promote jobs in Mount Vernon by identifying 25 businesses to which the county can begin to direct government contracts.
“Essentially I believe that he will do what he says, that he’s been a man of his word,” Richardson said.
Tocci, a longstanding advocate for veterans, said he supports Astorino because he wants to maintain Westchester’s suburban character, is focused on taxes and been a strong advocate for veterans.
“His opponent has proven to be anti-military, anti-veteran in the worst possible way,” he said.
Noam Bramson, Astorino’s Democratic opponent, ran against Tocci in his reelection bid for Assembly in 2002 and beat him in the Democratic primary. Tocci, a Democrat, went on to win on the Republican line.
Accepting the endorsements, Astorino said he wants his campaign to be inclusive.
“I will go everywhere and I will ask people for their support,” he said.
But Barry Caro, Bramson’s campaign spokesman, said the endorsements don’t mean much.
“If this is all our opponents can muster for ‘Democrats for Astorino,’ that’s a pretty clear sign that Democrats are united behind Noam Bramson,” he said in a statement. “Ron Tocci won his last election as the Republican and Conservative Party candidate, and is the furthest thing from a ‘major’ Democratic leader. Perhaps Rob Astorino’s time today might have been better spent working on an economic development strategy so that major employers like IBM don’t cut hundreds of jobs in our community.”
Photo: Former Democratic Assemblyman Ron Tocci endorses Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino Thursday. Astorino is at right and the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson at left. Elizabeth Ganga/The Journal News