Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Republican candidate for governor, spoke in front of the federal courthouse in White Plains this morning to announce a new campaign ad that accuses Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of corruption in connection with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. The governor, who created the panel, disbanded it in the spring, after state lawmakers agreed to strengthen anti-bribery legislation and support more independent enforcement of state election laws.
“Governor Cuomo is under a cloud of corruption in the state and yet, when asked, he says he’s not going to talk about it and apparently there’s no further questions,” Astorino said. “Well we have a governor who in 36 days has to go before the electorate, who may not even know that he’s under federal investigation for potential crimes like obstruction of justice, witness tampering, failure to report state crimes. All of these are serious, serious crimes and could land the governor in jail.”
You can see the new commercial, which Astorino admitted is controversial, here. It is scheduled to run tomorrow only. President Lyndon Johnson’s daisy commercial 50 years ago, which the new ad is based on, only ran once.
Matt Wing, Cuomo campaign communications director, said allegations in the commercial are false. “The only way Astorino’s ad would be factual is if it were about him: Rob Astorino has been charged with making false statements by the US Attorney, is being forced to testify under oath before a judge for allegedly lying to federal officials and is being sued for racketeering,” Wing said.
The comment refers to lawsuits filed against Astorino by leaders of the county Independence Party and Selim “Sam” Zherka that accused the county executive of trying to get Republican supporters to register with the Independence Party in an attempt to secure its endorsement for his 2013 county executive re-election campaign. In an unrelated case, Zherka was indicted Sept. 18 on tax fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering and falsified loan applications charges. He has denied the charges.
Asked by a reporter this morning if the commercial was “a sign of desperation” because he’s not doing well in polls compared to Cuomo, Astorino said no. “Nobody knows what the polls are because the polls don’t open until Nov. 4 … at 6 a.m.,” he said.
The two campaigns have agreed separately to different debates, but both campaigns have not agreed to any of them, Astorino said. The county executive said he was surprised to learn this weekend that the governor had agreed to two debates — one on radio in New York City and another in Buffalo. “We haven’t agreed to anything,” he said.
Astorino did not have any criticism of Cuomo’s trip to Afghanistan, saying he supports the troops and the trip was Cuomo’s call. “I hope he brings greetings from all of us because we all want to make sure our troops are safe,” he said.
This is video from this morning’s news conference: