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ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has seized on a racially charged housing dispute in Westchester County to brand his Republican opponent, County Executive Rob Astorino, as “so far right, he’s wrong for New York” in two television ads.
Cuomo's ads, airing in New York City, and Astorino’s in-your-face response on the internet marked the sharpest exchange between the candidates in the campaign for governor so far.
The state Democratic Party ads cite a dispute between the county executive and the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. Astorino has opposed HUD’s directive to create low-income housing because HUD prohibits landlords from rejecting tenants if their source of income is welfare or other government subsidies. Astorino also said HUD’s program violates local zoning laws.
“New York has a proud history of fighting discrimination,” states one of the two ads released by the Democratic committee headed by Cuomo. “That’s why it’s shocking that Rob Astorino has repeatedly violated federal anti-discrimination laws for years. He’s the only county executive in the nation that refuses to comply.”
One ad calls Astorino “the ultraconservative choice for governor.”
The line mirrors what was widely considered a rare gaffe by Cuomo in January. He said in a public radio interview that: “Extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault—weapon, anti-gay…have no place in the state of New York” That set off rage on national talk radio shows and by New York Republicans. It prompted Cuomo’s staff to walk the comment back, saying Cuomo meant an extreme conservative candidate can’t win statewide office in progressive New York.
“Just when you thought New York politics couldn't get dirtier, Governor Cuomo breaks new ground,” Astorino said in his internet ad response in English and Spanish yesterday.
“Mr. Cuomo effectively calls me and hundreds of thousands of Westchester and Long Island families racist,” Astorino said. “The reason? Because we don't agree that sensible zoning laws are discriminatory. Mr. Cuomo's ads viciously attack us for defending our communities against arbitrary federal interference and the insane property tax hikes that would come with it.“
“If you've got something to say to me and the people of 31 Westchester communities and Oyster Bay in Nassau County, Mr. Cuomo, say it to us directly,” Astorino said. “How about standing behind your attacks by publicly debating the issue, if you have the courage to?
“Or do you want to throw out false and inflammatory television ads and then hide?” Astorino said. “What's it gonna be?”