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A Republican feud broke out Tuesday between Senate Republicans who say the state is turning around and a spokesman for the party’s gubernatorial candidate who says New York ranks last in too many economic categories.
The nasty exchange sprouted a day earlier when William F.B. O’Reilly, an advisor to GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino, referred to Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “prison punk,” saying Republicans just went along with the Democrat’s agenda.
And the quarrel went into full bloom when O’Reilly penned an opinion piece on Newsday.com on Tuesday that called the Senate Republicans complacent and accused them of “mousiness” over the last decade.
O’Reilly said their complacency has “done nothing, ultimately, to stop New York from its inexorable slide to 50th place among states in category after category. And it's done nothing to grow the party.”
He said the GOP made cozy deals with unions, who are now turning their support to liberal Democrats.
A Skelos aide fired back late Tuesday.
“Notwithstanding the comments of Bill O’Reilly - - a paid political operative unsuccessfully masquerading as a serious newspaper columnist - - the Senate Republicans have been fighting extremely hard to reverse New York’s reputation for high taxes,” began a statement by Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.
She then listed several things Skelos and colleagues have taken credit for over the last four years, including implementing a property-tax cap and partially rolling back the MTA payroll tax. Cummings closed by making a reference to O’Reilly’s “prison punk” remark and questioning whether he was a suitable representative for Astorino.
“For the past few days, Bill O’Reilly’s words have been deeply concerning,” Cummings said. “These disgraceful comments are beneath the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who he should be helping. Mr. Astorino should have a very frank conversation with Mr. O’Reilly as to whether these actions are worthy of his campaign.”
Did it end there? Not a chance.
O’Reilly took Skelos to task with a flurry of tweets.
“The Senate GOP stands for _______ (fill in the blank) RT $100 to anyone who can,” the consultant said, followed by:
“If Senate Republicans want a fight, they'll get one.”
“What Senate Republicans don't get is that their own party members have absolutely had it with them. It's us you have to worry about.”
“Make you a deal, @SenatorSkelos, I'll step aside if you will...”
“Constructive advice in that column for @SenatorSkelos. Instead of reading it they attack.”
The episode exposes the friction over Republican campaign messages this year. Astorino must argue that Cuomo has failed to turn around New York over the last four years. Skelos, who has been Senate leader or co-leader during Cuomo’s tenure, says the state is headed in the right direction because the GOP has balanced the agenda in Albany.