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Rob Astorino picks upstate sheriff for running mate

ALBANY -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino on Tuesday chose the sheriff of Chemung County as his lieutenant governor running mate.

Sheriff Christopher J. Moss, 46, brings a law enforcement veteran to the ticket and a record of criticizing Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's gun-control law. Astorino's choice also shows his attention to the Southern Tier, which Astorino contends was failed by Cuomo over his indecision over whether to expand drilling for natural gas, which is opposed by environmental groups.

"Sheriff Moss is among the best and the brightest this state has to offer," Astorino said in his Internet video announcement. Moss is "a born-and-raised New Yorker; he's FBI trained.

"But what Sheriff Moss most brings is a reformer's passion," Astorino said. "I wanted an Albany outsider as a running mate to help me clean up the state and move it back into the winning column again.

"Make no mistake about it," Astorino said, "there's going to be a new sheriff in town in Albany next year."

Moss is chairman of the state's Sheriffs Association, an influential law enforcement lobbying organization that knows Albany well. If nominated as expected at the Republican state convention Thursday, Moss will be the first African-American on a Republican statewide ticket.

Moss recently told his hometown Elmira Star-Gazette that some provisions of the gun control law were "ludicrous" and the law was a "knee-jerk reaction" to the Newtown tragedy. He said the law unfairly targets "law-abiding, taxpaying citizens more than it hurts the criminals."

Cuomo's gun measure, rushed into law last year a month after the Newtown school shootings, remains popular in New York City and its suburbs. But opposition to the SAFE Act is strong in pockets of rural upstate and the swing area of Western New York, which could boost turnout for an Astorino-Moss ticket.

Moss has already had a bit of a conflict with Cuomo. After Cuomo met behind closed doors with law enforcement officials statewide as criticism of the SAFE Act built upstate, Moss said Cuomo told them not to voice their opinions. Cuomo denied that.

Cuomo spokesman Hank Sheinkopf noted Moss, in criticizing Cuomo’s SAFE Act after a meeting with the governor, told reporters Cuomo was doing a good job overall.

Moss has a master's degree in public administration from Marist College and a bachelor's degree in human services from Empire State College of the State University of New York. He has worked in the Chemung County Sheriff's Office since 1989 and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He moved through the ranks to be elected sheriff in 2005.

The Republican convention begins Wednesday in Westchester County, where Astorino is county executive. Astorino is expected to chosen as the party's nominee Thursday. Traditionally, the nominee and his nominated lieutenant governor then tour the state.

Moss grew up in Elmira and still lives there. He and his wife have a son.

Cuomo hasn't yet selected a running mate. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, former Rochester mayor and police chief, has decided not to run for a second term.

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