Nassau GOP largely silent on Astorino

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and his running

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and his running mate Chris Moss address the media Monday, July 28, 2014, in Buffalo. (Credit: AP / Mark Mulville)

Nearly two weeks ago, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, slammed the Cuomo administration over its use -- with federal permission -- of $37 million worth of Sandy aid for tourism promotion.

Ed Mangano, a fellow GOP executive in Sandy-ravaged Nassau, has offered no hint of an "amen."

A question on the issue elicited only a brief reply from his spokesman: "Ed Mangano is focused on serving as county executive and enjoys productive governmental relationships with officials from all parties."

To have any chance in November, Astorino must make gains in New York's downstate suburbs, where the latest Siena poll shows a 55 to 26 percent edge for Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

For several reasons, it was clear from the outset that Nassau's GOP establishment wasn't ready to pull a muscle helping Astorino. Even so, the silence has been impressive.

Consider the 4th Congressional District contest between Democratic District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Republican attorney Bruce Blakeman. While Cuomo faces a new round of political troubles over his disbanded anti-corruption commission, Blakeman logically seeks to score points from Rice's having been one of the controversial panel's three co-chairs.

Another co-chair, William Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga DA, has publicly denied that Cuomo's office "interfered" with the commission's work. Rice, however, makes no such statement -- and sidesteps all public comment on the matter, which is under federal probe. Blakeman said in his own statement Tuesday: "It's clear that Kathleen Rice and everyone associated with the Moreland Commission are circling their wagons" and "trying to get their stories straight."

But Blakeman, backed by the county organization, isn't taking direct aim at Cuomo.

Jay Jacobs, the Nassau Democratic chairman, said the local Republicans' overall cordiality with Cuomo "has been, relatively speaking, mutually beneficial -- governmentally. My guess is, Nassau's Republicans don't see any gain in opposing a governor who they'd think is going to win re-election. You don't bite the hand that feeds you."

On the cusp of the latest news stories on Cuomo's corruption panel, ex-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, of Lido Beach, now a lobbyist, criticized Astorino for trying to tag Cuomo as "corrupt" and demanded the candidate apologize, which Astorino did not.

For state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) -- Nassau's most important Republican on the statewide stage -- objections to the actions of Cuomo's Moreland Commission have been more than an academic exercise.

Before it was declared dead, Skelos ranked among those suing to block a number of commission subpoenas clearly aimed at exploring the business of legislators like himself and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who are affiliated with different law firms.

Skelos' continued clout depends on key wins in Senate races around the state. He has endorsed Astorino, who, with a respectable performance, could in theory help lift Republican candidates in down-ballot races.

Skelos has yet to be heard in the latest wave of publicity over the commission.

Politicians are bandwagon-minded. So perhaps the Nassau GOP's reticence would fade should Astorino suddenly gain ground. Barring that, expect more of the same.