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McKinstry: A Westchester Republican basks in Gov. Cuomo's light

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, stands with Assemblyman Robert

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, stands with Assemblyman Robert J. Castelli, second from right, at the Festa Italania car show in Mount Kisco. Credit: Castelli Campaign Committee

A Republican lawmaker from Westchester County is banking on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s "muscle" for help in his re-election bid.

And judging from the Democratic governor’s comments, you might think he was backing a Republican -- but don’t call it an endorsement.

Assemb. Robert J. Castelli, a Republican whose district includes Cuomo’s New Castle abode, says he not only shares an Italian heritage with the governor, but a love of muscle cars.
The two spoke of their common interests Sunday at a Columbus Day celebration, Festa Italania, in Mount Kisco.

In a release put out late Sunday, Castelli said he attended the event where a “meticulously maintained 1968 Pontiac GTO convertible” was on display. The car’s owner: none other than Cuomo.
“The assemblyman and I were chatting about cars, and what they represented,” Cuomo said, according to the release. “Such a beautiful point in time in the American muscle car era, and it’s a pleasure to remember that and be part of it.”

While Cuomo’s comments fall short of an outright endorsement, the governor did praise Castelli, and the direction of this state. Cuomo’s press office declined to comment on the record.

The release, however, gives the impression that Cuomo is backing Castelli.

“We’ve gotten a lot of work done, and I want to thank him for his partnership, and I want to thank him for his help, because the state is now headed in the right direction, it really is,” Cuomo said, according to Castelli's release. “This is the Empire State. It’s the greatest state in the country, and our better days are not behind us. Our best days are ahead of us, and that’s where we’re headed.”

The bipartisan chat over cars is reminiscent of a September 2011 car show on Long Island where Cuomo and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, posed next to vintage Corvettes. Mangano showed off his gold 1969 Stingray while Cuomo arrived in his 1975 blue model. The political overtones were minimal; Mangano wouldn’t be up for re-election until 2013.

Cars aside, clearly Democrats and Republicans alike wouldn’t mind the blessing of the governor, who has something like a 70 percent approval rating.

Sunday’s news release follows a similar campaign mailer -– highlighted today in a news story in The New York Times about Republicans embracing the appeal of Cuomo -– that features the two men pictured together and touts “Castelli & Cuomo: Leadership for Westchester County.”

Cuomo is credited for working with both parties, but has been relatively quiet in the political arena, where Democrats are trying to take back control of the State Senate in November. The governor has said, regardless of party, it’s important that Albany end its gridlock and dysfuction.

Castelli is running against Democrat David Buchwald, a White Plains city councilman. We couldn’t determine whether Buchwald prefers a GTO over a Mustang.

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