Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo campaigned on broad Democratic themes and defended his controversial gun-control law as he toured upstate Friday. Crisscrossing the region at the same time, Republican challenger Rob Astorino said only the privileged and connected have prospered during Cuomo's four years in office.
Meanwhile, a Marist poll released Friday found Cuomo leading Astorino, 56 percent to 30 percent, among likely voters. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins drew 6 percent, with 7 percent undecided and 1 percent choosing someone else.
Cuomo, stopping at union halls in Rochester and Syracuse, urged Democrats to turn out Tuesday on issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control while painting Republicans as obstructionists and "ultraconservatives."
"These are not moderate Republicans," Cuomo said, echoing the message of many of his campaign ads that have driven up Astorino's negative ratings. "These are ultraconservatives. Their ideology, their goal is they are right and everybody else is wrong. It's 100 percent their way or they will make sure nothing happens."
Patches of upstate are dotted with signs calling for repeal of a gun-control law dubbed the SAFE Act, which Cuomo pushed through the State Legislature one month after the December 2012 school-shootings massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Asked whether he thought it would hurt him upstate, Cuomo said the law, in effect for a little more than a year, has resulted in many arrests for gun crimes without causing an uproar some expected.
"People had concerns about it initially. None of those concerns have come true a year later," he said, saying it hasn't affected legal gun owners.
In Binghamton, Astorino received an ovation from about 100 Republicans for his vow to end the Common Core academic standards and exams in schools, which have angered many teachers and parents.
During the rally, he gave supporters a message intended to energize Republicans, Democrats disappointed in Cuomo's first term and voters not enrolled in a party. He portrayed himself as a common man to Cuomo's elite. "In his New York, people who are very privileged and well connected -- they've gotten all the breaks," Astorino said of his opponent.
Astorino asked rally-goers when the last time was they saw Cuomo walking one of Binghamton's streets.
"He helicopters into SUNY Binghamton, and helicopters out. That's his trip to the Southern Tier," Astorino said.
Later, in an interview, he added: "There might be some local issues that are important, but overall it's the same theme: We're losing badly under this governor, he's corrupt, he's lied throughout the whole campaign about me and my record in the commercials he airs."
Cuomo also sought to soften recent comments on teacher evaluations, saying the process needed to be refined but stopping short of saying it should be strengthened.
Cuomo angered teachers' unions this week when he called public schools one of the last remaining "public monopolies" and vowed to change a teacher-evaluation system that he installed earlier in his term. Asked how he would strengthen evaluations, the Democrat said it was more a matter of "refining" them to accurately reflect teachers' performance and determining the right mix of emphasis on classroom methods and exams.
The New York State United Teachers had called Cuomo's earlier comments disrespectful. Astorino sought to capitalize by writing an "open letter" to teachers statewide, saying that while Cuomo treated them with "disdain," he would treat them with respect.