ALBANY -- State Senate Republicans sandbagged Rob Astorino, the party's gubernatorial candidate, because they didn't want to upset Democrat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and big-money donors, Astorino's campaign manager said Monday.
Michael Lawler said Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) -- the top elected Republican in the state -- refused repeatedly to participate in news conferences by the Astorino campaign. Cuomo barely campaigned against Senate Republicans, Lawler said.
"They could have been helpful in electing a Republican governor," Lawler said of Skelos and Senate Republicans. "Sadly, they were helpful in electing Governor Cuomo."
Skelos spokesman Scott Reif shot back: "The fact is that Senator Skelos endorsed Rob Astorino for governor way back in May at the state Republican Convention and spoke highly of his candidacy then, and on a number of occasions throughout the course of the year, and he even contributed money to Rob's campaign. It's always puzzling when a campaign manager casts blame in every direction yet refuses to look in the mirror and accept any of the responsibility for himself."
Cuomo defeated Astorino last week by a margin of 54 to 41 percent in a contest marked by the lowest turnout in statewide elections in 80 years. Republicans won an outright majority in the State Senate, taking 32 of 63 seats. One Democrat also is expected to join the Republican conference.
Some liberal Democrats have sharply criticized Cuomo for not fulfilling a promise to help Democrats win the Senate. Now, in something of a reversal, the Astorino camp is attacking sitting senators for not helping the candidate at the top of the GOP ticket.
Skelos endorsed Astorino but otherwise did nothing for him, Lawler said.
"What does that support manifest into?" Lawler said. "He did more public events with the governor than with Rob."
Lawler said that when Astorino's campaign asked Skelos' to participate in an event or news release "they either didn't agree with us on the issue or they would ignore the request."
Lawler said Skelos played a role in getting Mangano to endorse Cuomo -- in exchange, Lawler believes, for the governor staying out of Long Island Senate races. Lawler said people close to Mangano told him that, but Lawler said he had no direct knowledge. Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin didn't respond to messages for comment.Republicans won all nine Senate contests in Nassau and Suffolk.State Republican Chairman Ed Cox declined through a spokesman to comment.Cuomo and Mangano have had a cordial relationship, with the governor appearing at a classic car rally with Mangano in Nassau and the two appearing together at numerous Hurricane Sandy-related events.