Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, freshly nominated by his party, on Thursday promised an aggressive campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and said he's confident he can win over Democrats and independents frustrated with the slow pace of economic recovery.
Speaking to delegates at the party's convention, Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said he supports hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, opposes the state's new Common Core academic assessments and, if elected, would repeal new gun control measures deeply unpopular with gun rights supporters.
"They've nearly ruined a once-great state," Astorino said of Cuomo and other leaders he blamed for the state's woes. "They've murdered innovation and chased away the dreamers."
Before adjourning their convention in Astorino's home county on Thursday, the state GOP endorsed Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss for lieutenant governor. Neither man had any competition for the nominations.
GOP leaders have used the convention to highlight party unity. Republicans haven't won statewide office in New York since 2002. In 2010, the candidate favored by party leaders, former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, was defeated in the primary by conservative Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, who went on to lose a lopsided election to Cuomo.
The state's minority party is looking to repeat the successful 1994 campaign of former Republican Gov. George Pataki, who ousted Cuomo's father, Mario Cuomo, from the governor's office.
Astorino also pointed to his own re-election last year in a heavily Democratic county as evidence that he can appeal to all kinds of voters in blue-state New York and compete with Cuomo, who enjoys a formidable fundraising advantage and is far ahead in the polls.
"Money doesn't buy a win," Astorino said, noting that when he first ran for his position in 2005, "People said, 'You can't do it.' ... We're going to do it."
Democrats will endorse Cuomo for a second term at their nominating convention next week on Long Island. Cuomo has done little to publicly acknowledge Astorino's candidacy, leaving it to his party to go on the offensive with ads attacking Astorino.
On Thursday, the party sought to blunt Astorino's appeal to moderate voters, with spokesman Peter Kauffmann saying Astorino has an "ultraconservative right-wing agenda" and accusing of him of taking "cheap political shots" against Cuomo.
Republicans will also look to shore up support among conservatives and voters in rural areas with Astorino's selection of Moss as his running mate. The sheriff is a well-liked by conservatives for his vocal criticism of the new gun law championed by Cuomo.
Moss said Cuomo hasn't done enough to help the upstate economy, and like Astorino he said hydraulic fracturing for natural gas could be a boon for places such as his home county along the Pennsylvania border. He won big applause when he vowed to take on what he said is a state government riddled with corruption.
"Mark my words: If there is anything I know how to do really well, it's go after lawbreakers," he said.
On Wednesday, the state party nominated John Cahill for attorney general and Robert Antonacci for comptroller.