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Astorino endorsed by state Conservative Party at LI convention

Rob Astorino accepts the state Conservative Party's endorsement

Rob Astorino accepts the state Conservative Party's endorsement for governor Saturday, May 31, 2014, at its convention in Rockville Centre. Credit: Jeremy Bales

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino accepted the state Conservative Party endorsement Saturday and pledged to outwork Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Long Island suburbs on a message of lower taxes and more job creation.

Astorino and members of his Republican ticket attacked Cuomo at the party's annual convention in Rockville Centre for failing to crack down on public corruption, backing the controversial Common Core curriculum and passing a gun control law that includes an assault weapons ban.

"What I see happening in the state today makes me sad, and it makes me angry," Astorino said in a basement meeting room at the Best Western on Sunrise Highway. "That's why I am running. It doesn't have to be that way."

A Cuomo campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Astorino said the most critical battleground in the November election will be in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, where he says he will emphasize his plan to lower taxes and end Common Core.

Astorino, who is serving his second term as county executive, said he will also stump in typical Democratic strongholds, such as black Baptist churches and predominantly Hispanic communities.

"We need to introduce ourselves to every New Yorker," he said. "I am proud of my conservative Republican principles. Let's offer an alternative to everyone in this state."

The Conservative Party also endorsed Astorino's running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss, for lieutenant governor; John Cahill, a former top aide to then-Gov. George Pataki, for attorney general; and Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci for state comptroller.

Cahill will take on Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in November while Antonacci will square off against Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Each of the four statewide candidates was endorsed earlier this month by the state Republican Party.

During Saturday's 90-minute event, Conservative Party leaders and candidates criticized the state Working Families Party, which held its convention simultaneously in Albany.

Sources said Working Families officials reached an agreement Friday in which the party would endorse Cuomo if the governor would back an increase in the state minimum wage, push for the passage of the Dream Act to provide college aid to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, and seek a Democratic majority in the State Senate.

Conservative Party chairman Mike Long said the deal amounted to "blackmail" with "illegal conditions."

Astorino said of the deal: "Something smells. It fits in with how corrupt this state and this administration have become."

The Conservative Party ranks fourth statewide in voter enrollment behind Democrats, Republicans and the Independence Party. Statewide, 156,317 New Yorkers are registered as Conservative Party members, including more than 33,000 Long Islanders, according to the state Board of Elections.

In 2010, a divided group of Conservative Party leaders initially backed former congressman Rick Lazio for governor. When Lazio dropped out of the race, the party endorsed the Republican nominee, Carl Paladino, who drew more than 232,000 votes on the Conservative Party line, but lost handily to Cuomo.