On the last leg of a statewide tour that took him from the Bronx to Buffalo, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino faced a barrage of questions Friday in Albany on his platform and how he would manage the state.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, announced Wednesday he would challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he spent months courting GOP support. He made stops Thursday in the Bronx and Buffalo before heading to Rochester, Syracuse and Albany on Friday in a large white van bearing his campaign signs.
At a news conference near the state Capitol, Astorino was questioned on a number of policy issues, from medical marijuana to abortion to how he would manage the state budget.
“Everything should be on the table,” Astorino said when asked where he would look to cut spending. “Medicaid, itself, clearly needs to be reformed. We cannot continue the runaway spending on Medicaid we have and not assume it’s going to gobble up everything. Because it is — ask not just municipalities, but local school districts. They’re getting crushed by these mandated programs.”
Astorino focused largely on fiscal issues during his first tour as a candidate, dismissing the Cuomo-backed plan to offer 10 tax-free years to businesses who locate mostly near SUNY campuses as “a joke.”
But he’s also taken aim at the SAFE Act, a set of more-stringent gun-control laws signed by Cuomo last year. In East Rochester on Friday, Astorino spoke at Beikirch’s Ammunition, a gun store who opened a second shop in Pennsylvania after the SAFE Act was passed.
Democrats, meanwhile, have attempted to highlight Astorino’s social views, particularly on abortion. Pro-choice groups immediately criticized his pro-life stance after he announced Wednesday.
In Albany, Astorino said he would oppose any attempts to expand abortion into the third trimester. He stopped short of saying he would prevent Medicaid money from being used on abortions.
“Personally, I don’t love that, but that’s a public policy decision we can make together,” Astorino said.
In perhaps the most sure-fire sign he’s officially a candidate, Astorino was asked whether he himself has smoked marijuana.
“When I was in college, I smoked a couple joints, and that’s the last time,” he said.
Astorino said he may be open to allowing limited medical marijuana, but only if it’s strictly regulated. He opposes legalizing pot for recreational use, he said.