RYE BROOK -- Republican Rob Astorino offered a stark view of the state's condition in accepting his party's nomination for governor Thursday, saying that New York is dead last in many quality-of-life factors for the young and old, and it's gotten worse under Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"What happened in New York is no less than a disgrace, a crime," Astorino said in a speech at the state Republican convention here. "I'll tell you what happened. Government happened . . . bad government."
Astorino said ineffective and corrupt government that bowed to special interests led to an over-regulated business climate, some of the nation's highest energy costs and lack of action on potentially lucrative drilling for natural gas in upstate shale.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said it all led to the nation's highest taxes that are driving the young and retired out of state. He noted recent surveys that found New York worst among states in business climate and in places to retire.
"When did living here become like a prison sentence: 'I'm retired in three years then I'm out of here' . . . 'Once the kids finish school we're headed South.' Who hasn't heard that 100 times?"
The message is a sharp contrast to Cuomo's. Cuomo says he restored fiscal stability and brought ethics reform to Albany. He says under his leadership New York has shed its high-tax image and is now seen as "open for business," with a booming New York City and growing high-tech development.
Cuomo didn't immediately respond to Astorino's comments Thursday.
"The proof is in the pudding and the arrows are pointing up," Cuomo said in his State of the State speech in January. "We stopped talking and we started doing. And in three years my friends, you have reversed decades of decline and made dramatic and undeniable progress."
"Voters are somewhere in between the competing visions," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, an authority on voter trends in the suburbs, which are expected to be the crucial battleground in the governor's race.
"It's not as good as it was before the recession -- no doubt about that -- but it's better now than it was when the recession hit," Levy said of the state's condition. Although the issue will dominate each campaign, "There's a question of how much can a governor or even a president move the dial in a global economy. That's part of the debate."
Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss pledged in his acceptance speech for the lieutenant governor's nomination to support Astorino's economic and anti-corruption platform.
Astorino, 47, took an optimistic tack -- important in winning over voters -- when he closed out his speech citing great New Yorkers and great New York moments.
"Together, we can make the Empire State great again," said Astorino, who won two terms in Democrat-dominated Westchester.
"This is New York, where the Vanderbilts built railroads, where Seymour Knox built Five-and-Dimes, and where Colin Powell reached for the stars," Astorino said. "It's the New York of George Gershwin, Issac Stern, Tito Puente . . . where Willis Reed came off the bench to beat the Lakers . . . where the Yankees won 27 world championships, where Jackie Robinson stole home and Broadway Joe guaranteed a trophy.
"Fiftieth? We scoff at that."