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Astorino assails Cuomo for 'nasty and dirty and low' campaign, but acknowledges effect

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino gives

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino gives his concession speech alongside his family during his election night rally at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in White Plains. Credit: AP / John Minchillo

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Friday that the tone of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's re-election campaign was "very nasty and dirty and low," and acknowledged Cuomo's attack ads hurt his chances.

Astorino, in his first extended postelection interview, told WGDJ-AM in Albany that a lack of debates and campaign funds hampered him and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, damaged his candidacy when he called it a "lost cause."

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said he "ran the race we wanted," and that "if we had more money at the right time, I think it would have been a nail-biter. We did the best we could with what we had."

Cuomo defeated Astorinoby 54 percent to 41 percent amid the lowest statewide turnout in generations. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins received 5 percent. Cuomo raised roughly $45 million for his campaign, about 10 times the amount Astorino raised.

Astorino, who left open the possibility of running again in the future, said that, "unfortunately, the tone from the Cuomo campaign became very nasty and dirty and low. There's a line and they crossed it."

Astorino was referring primarily to the Cuomo campaign's use of a federal housing discrimination lawsuit against Westchester -- filed against Astorino's predecessor, a Democrat -- to accuse him of racial discrimination. The Cuomo campaign said that Astorino continued to fight the lawsuit rather than implement necessary housing changes.

Astorino said Cuomo ads portraying him as an "ultraconservative" were effective: Astorino's negative ratings among voters went from a blip in the spring to more than 40 percent at the end of the campaign.

"The critical time was the middle of the summer and the early fall when [Cuomo] kept dumping money into negative commercials that were so over the top, and we weren't able to effectively answer them," Astorino said Friday.

Astorino added: "The Chris Christie 'lost cause' comment didn't help."

He also repeated his complaint that Cuomo dodged debates.

"One debate with four candidates, in which each of us gets about 12 minutes, is not healthy," Astorino said.

Employing a typical underdog's strategy, Astorino had sought five televised debates, including some one-on-one matches with Cuomo. The governor, employing a typical front-runner strategy, agreed to just one televised debate that also included two minor-party candidates.

Astorino said State Senate Republicans must pursue a strong agenda now that they've won an outright majority and not just follow Cuomo and the Democrat-led Assembly.

"Now that they have a majority, they have to do something with it," Astorino said. "If they are just going to be Democrat light ... they are going to get demolished in two years."

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