Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino campaigned on Long Island Sunday to generate support for the race he said he believes will be decided by voters from New York City's suburbs.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, sought to find common ground among his home county and Nassau and Suffolk, saying they struggle with high taxes and the need for job growth.
"We can move the numbers a lot upstate and we can win big upstate," Astorino said during a 12-minute speech to about 90 guests at the Oyster Bay Republican brunch at Jack Halyards American Bar & Grill in Oyster Bay.
"New York City, we can lose New York City 70 to 30 and still hit our number," Astorino said. "Which means the difference in this race is going to be exactly where I want it to be: Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk. That's going to be the race."
In Westchester, where Astorino, 47, was elected to two consecutive terms, registered Democrats outweigh Republicans 2-1, according to the latest state Board of Elections figures.
Nassau County is another example where a Republican, Edward Mangano -- who won re-election last year with an 18 percentage point victory -- was elected county executive twice with more registered Democrats than Republicans, at 371,490 to 328,503 as of April.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, won election in 2011 with Democrats slightly outnumbering Republicans, 320,032 to 312,447.
"Nobody knows high taxes like Nassau and Westchester," Astorino said. "Unfortunately, we're one and two in the nation in taxes -- and we can do so much better."
He vowed to "stand firm" with Oyster Bay as the town faces a federal lawsuit over allegations of discrimination against African-Americans within its plans for affordable housing.
"I will fight with Nassau County and Oyster Bay, stand firm with you because I've been through this and I won't let the federal government march in here and dictate to you how your communities will be developed," Astorino said. Westchester has been embroiled in a dispute with the federal government over affordable housing.
Astorino blamed the state's high taxes on Albany, a result of New York being "the most corrupt state in America" and leading 400,000 New Yorkers to flee the state under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's leadership.
He said his running mate for lieutenant governor, Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss, is the best person "that can help me clean up the Democratic culture of corruption in Albany."
New York Democratic Committee spokesman Peter Kauffmann, responding to Astorino's remarks, said under Cuomo's watch, New York's middle class tax rates became the lowest they've been in 61 years. "Cheap political shots won't distract New Yorkers from Republican Rob Astorino's opposition to a woman's right to choose, marriage equality and bipartisan gun safety laws," Kauffmann said in an email.
TV spots run by Cuomo's campaign -- which Astorino thinks paint him as a "racist" -- are a sign that the Republican's campaign is a threat, Astorino said.
"I expected his alarms to go off in September and October, not now," Astorino said. "And so if he's doing that at this point, he knows what we know: We can win this race."