Former President Bill Clinton Thursday night urged voters to support Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's re-election by saying the Democrat -- despite a fractious political environment -- had made New York "a more progressive, more fair, more forward-looking state."
His comments came as Cuomo's GOP challenger, Rob Astorino, made stops in both Manhattan and on Long Island, arguing that the governor had overseen little economic growth and had taken actions that drove up utility rates.
Both campaigns referenced polls that show Cuomo with a comfortable lead. Clinton said polls shouldn't be used as a reason not to vote, citing the need to also elect other Democrats in close races. Astorino, the Westchester County executive, claimed polls meant little because "the silent majority is waking up very quickly."
"Eric Cantor was leading by 40 percent in the polls, too, and he lost," Astorino said of the former House majority leader, who lost his seat in a Virginia primary earlier this year.
Clinton, in the midst of barnstorming that this week took him to California and Kentucky -- and last week to Long Island for Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop -- never mentioned Astorino by name Thursday night.
He focused on Cuomo's record, including passing on-time state budgets, comparing it to the governor's "great job" as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
"I wasn't surprised when he broke the gridlock, I wasn't surprised when he raised the minimum wage, when he got marriage equality, when he got the gun safety law," Clinton told a crowd of several hundred gathered at the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East offices in Manhattan. "I thought all that was really important."
When referring to Cuomo's economic policies, the wealthy Clinton made a point while getting a laugh: "The other thing the governor did that I really appreciated: He raised my taxes," he said, pausing for effect, "so he could lower yours."
But Astorino used Thursday to hammer Cuomo, not only for "the highest taxes in America," but also for a report in The New York Times saying Cuomo -- similar to allegations involving his commission to investigate public corruption -- interfered with the panel examining the Long Island Power Authority's failed response to superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The report said Cuomo's office had "a clear idea at the outset of what the commission should conclude." LIPA was reorganized and uses a private utility to manage its operations.
"It's one of the reasons why energy costs, electricity rates, continue to go up and up and up in Long Island, because this governor meddled in something he should never have stuck his nose in," Astorino said from outside Tweed courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
Later, Astorino appeared at a Nassau GOP rally in Hicksville, saying that the local party "gets wins, even unexpected wins."
Cuomo, meanwhile, attacked Astorino in his speech before Clinton took the stage, mentioning his opponent's opposition to his gun-control law and allegations by HUD that some zoning laws in Westchester violate federal fair housing laws.
"He's the only county executive in the United States who's being sued by [the] federal government for housing discrimination," Cuomo said, later grouping his opponent into what he called "ultra conservatives."
"They are against everything we believe. It's that simple."