Just before taking the stage at the state Republican convention here Thursday, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) was asked if he will give Westchester Executive Rob Astorino his full-throated support for governor.
The reason for the question was obvious enough. Nassau Republicans, and Skelos, have looked quite cordial in recent years with Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"I'm a full-throated Republican so I support Rob Astorino," Skelos replied.
Will "the troops" be out working for Astorino in Nassau?
"I would expect so," Skelos said. "He spoke at our county dinner. [Chairman] Joe Mondello's a great Republican and we're going to work hard for Rob Astorino in November."
Skelos expanded on that as he addressed the delegates, hailing the GOP ticket members "that are going to be elected on Nov. 4."
"We should all be excited about the team that's put together because it's the best team that we've had since 1994," the year Republican Gov. George Pataki was elected. Astorino, he said, "has showed us how to win when Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one."
Like Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Astorino won a surprising victory for his current job in 2009 and was re-elected last year, Skelos noted. He spoke of both executives having "kept their word" on not raising taxes.
Skelos predicted the GOP will pick up three or four State Senate seats in this year's elections. He said this despite expecting Sen. Greg Ball (R-Putnam) to forgo a re-election run this year and that two Long Island GOP seats may be in play, with ex-Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) having left and Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) running for Congress.
"I do believe it's going to be a tremendous, tremendous Republican year," Skelos said in his speech, emphasizing that his Senate conference's focus "has been about economic issues."
Of course, lawmakers and governors share a legislative and budgetary record. So in making thumping partisan speeches, candidates and others must magnify part of the picture and obscure the rest.
For instance, Cuomo takes credit for ending Albany gridlock, but Skelos said Thursday: "I'm proud that when we came back into the majority . . . the Republicans ended the dysfunction that exists in Albany."
Another example: The new Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss -- the first African-American on a modern statewide GOP ticket -- denounced the Cuomo-pushed "SAFE Act" gun restrictions.
Moss said Cuomo "enacted laws in the dead of the night infringing on our constitutional rights. Take it from a guy who has spent his life in law enforcement: the SAFE Act does not make us safe."
But the law was sponsored in part by a New York City member of Skelos' conference and, of course, had to clear the Senate, which is run by a coalition of Republicans and a small group of Democrats, for Cuomo to sign it. Neither Moss nor Skelos would trumpet that complication.
As one of the warm-up acts for the final convention morning, capped by Astorino's acceptance address, Skelos said: "Rob, I don't think you're here right now. Hopefully you're listening. You're going to be a great governor of the state of New York."