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GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino reaches out to LI churches for support

GOP New York State Governor candidate Rob Astorino

GOP New York State Governor candidate Rob Astorino speaks in Bay Shore on Sept. 5, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino appeared in four Long Island churches Sunday, touting what he called his Christian heritage and family values.

After an hour of service at Perfecting Faith Church, a Pentecostal church on North Main Street in Freeport, Astorino took to the podium with a nine-minute speech in which he defended himself against what he called "attack ads" placed by his Democratic opponent, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The ads "said that any New Yorker who is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage has no place in New York and has labeled me, because of those views that I have, as an extremist," Astorino said. "But I say to you, if we share those values, then when he attacks me, he's attacking you, too."

Cuomo, at an unrelated news conference in Manhattan Sunday, did not respond to Astorino's campaigning on Long Island.

"I've been campaigning. I campaigned. And I also have a day job, which is I'm governor of New York. So I have to do both. Today, this is as governor of New York. But we do both," Cuomo said. "And we will be debating and the campaigns will work out the details."

"In the Constitution it says 'freedom of religion' not 'freedom from religion,' " Astorino said. "What's happening today, is a whitewashing of religion and God from everything. And if you don't take a stand, it will be gone before you know it."

Addressing communities of color in Freeport, Dix Hills and Brooklyn that typically vote Democratic, Astorino asked the congregations to "consider" voting for him because of their shared "values."

"I just ask for your support because I can't win without you," Astorino said. "I ask that you vote your values, not necessarily your party, whatever that party may be, because sometimes they don't align."

Astorino, who is married with three children, said he is "proud" of who he is.

Astorino, who received a standing ovation from the Freeport churchgoers, cited too-high taxes, the state's business climate and dismal economic outlooks as pillars of his campaign.

In between religion-themed talking points, Astorino said New York is "losing badly" as a state in many important areas.

"We have the highest taxes in America, we have the worst business climate in America, the worst economic outlook in America. Our unemployment rate is so unacceptably high," Astorino said.

He also touched on the topic of corruption, which has been an issue since Cuomo disbanded an anti-corruption panel he formed.

"Unfortunately, we have too much corruption in this state," Astorino said. "And the corruption colors everything and every decision made in Albany."

Astorino wrapped up his Long Island tour at the Central American Festival in Hempstead and the Italian Festival at Hofstra University. There, he shook hands and introduced himself to those enjoying live music, among them Anthony Puglisi, 79, a retired chauffeur from Ridge.

Although Puglisi voted for Cuomo in the last election, his vote on Nov. 4 will go to Astorino, he said.

"I'm tired of the same old, same old," said Puglisi, who said he used to drive a car for Cuomo's father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. "I think it's time for a change. Taxes are too high and the tax breaks are going to all the wrong people. We need to look out for the average person."

Among the seven places on Astorino's schedule was the Freeport Bible Center on North Main Street in Freeport, where Astorino joined hundreds of worshippers for an 8:30 a.m. service.

He clapped his hands and sang along by reading song lyrics off a projector screen before addressing the crowd of Hispanic Americans, from places like El Salvador, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He spoke in fluent Spanish about the governor's race and called the Common Core academic standards "a disaster," to which the crowd erupted in applause.

Astorino also spoke at the Upper Room Christian World Center in Dix Hills and made an appearance at the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Earlier, Astorino gave remarks at a 7:20 a.m. service at the Zion Cathedral Church in Christ on Grand Avenue in Freeport.

With Emily Ngo

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