Two members of the clergy listed as expected to endorse County Executive Rob Astorino for reelection said they did not endorse him.
The Rev. Gay Tompson-Steele, pastor of Faith Mission Grace Baptist Church in Yonkers, which is affiliated with Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, and the Rev. Michael Gerald, the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Tuckahoe both said they had not endorsed Astorino.
They were listed as “slated to attend” the announcement on Saturday of endorsements by a “coalition of prominent African-American ministers.”
“My statement is that I do not,” said Rev. Tompson Steele, adding she has not endorsed either candidate.
Rev. Gerald said, with only a year in the community, he doesn’t know the candidates well enough to make an endorsement and said he was a little taken aback when he saw his name.
“I need to really talk to the candidates and get a sense of where they are,” said Gerald, who said he was active politically in New Jersey before coming to Westchester, including in the Obama campaign.
Astorino, a Republican, has been gathering a string of endorsements in Mount Vernon, a Democratic stronghold, including by a group the campaign calls Democrats for Astorino. Prominent clergy that did endorse him include Bishop C. Nathan Edwers of the Friendship Worship Church in Mount Vernon and the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson of Grace Baptist.
Bill O’Reilly, Astorino’s spokesman, said the campaign was given a list of names of clergy members who would attend and put them in the press release.
“My mistake,” he said. “They were slated to attend. Those two ministers didn’t and I’ll call them to apologize.”
But Bishop Edwers said he spoke to both ministers and they said they could be included.
“These people have the right to retract their endorsements but I personally called them and they consented to have their names in the press release,” he said.
Barry Caro, a spokesman for New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, the Democratic candidate, said the Mount Vernon endorsements are part of a larger campaign tactic.
“Rob Astorino is basing his reelection strategy on what we believe is a false claim that he’s moderate,” Caro said. “He’s been trying to emphasize his bipartisan credentials over the last couple weeks.”
But, he added, “There are a lot of people in Westchester County who have been watching Rob Astorino’s actions very closely and believe they are very extreme.”
Edwers said he endorsed Astorino because he has been a consistent fiscal manager but has fairly allocated funds as times have gotten better. Astorino has also been accessible to ministers and faith based groups, he said.
“He believes in lean government, reducing the size of government to make sure that the services get to the people,” he said.
Tuesday, Democratic Mount Vernon City Councilwoman Deborah Reynolds also endorsed Astorino.