Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino defended his call to roll back a statewide gun-control law on Long Island Sunday after Nassau parks officials first asked him to leave a county-sponsored Oktoberfest before changing their minds.
Astorino and a 20-person campaign team shook hands inside a beer garden at Eisenhower Park while his staff passed out campaign literature.
Soon, a deputy parks commissioner told the campaign to leave because politicking was not allowed at county events. "You can go right outside the gates there," Deputy Commissioner Frank Camerlengo told an Astorino campaign aide.
Parks Commissioner Brian Nugent intervened and said Astorino's campaign could stay. "If it was Cuomo here handing out stuff, we'd tell him the same thing," Nugent said.
The campaign stop came five days after GOP County Executive Edward Mangano crossed party lines and endorsed Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The visit also comes after a recent poll showed Astorino trailing Cuomo by 20 points.
At the Oktoberfest, Astorino spoke with supporters and opponents about Cuomo's record, taxes and Albany corruption.
Bill Cooney, 38 of Rockville Centre, told Astorino he'd gone too far on gun control when he promised to repeal the Safe Act, a statewide gun-control law Cuomo pushed through last year.
"I'm a lifelong Republican, but I can't vote for you," said Cooney, an attorney. "You're slavishly falling over yourself to appeal to the NRA, but you're losing Republicans."
Astorino disagreed and told Cooney he supported background checks.
Lawrence Koenig, 69 of Hicksville, shook hands with Astorino and expressed his anger at Mangano for endorsing Cuomo. "What's with Mangano?" Koenig asked Astorino.
"I don't know why he'd put his arm around someone under investigation for federal corruption," Astorino said, referring to Cuomo's decision to shut down a public corruption commission.
The U.S. attorney is investigating the matter.
Cuomo, meanwhile, delivered remarks at a Baptist church in Buffalo and then attended a Buffalo Bills tailgate party, according to his campaign. The Cuomo campaign did not respond to Astorino's comments, nor did a spokesman for Mangano.