It’s been no secret that Rob Astorino has been planning to seek public office again.
The former Westchester County executive and one-time Republican nominee for governor made it official Thursday, June 25, when he announced on YouTube that he was challenging Democratic Sen. Pete Harckham of South Salem for his seat in the state Senate’s 40th District.
The district includes parts of Putnam and Dutchess counties, and the towns of Somers, North Salem, Yorktown and Lewisboro in Westchester.
Astorino was defeated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial elections. In 2017, after serving two turns as county executive, he went for a third term but lost to Democratic challenger George Latimer.
The father of three went on to work for Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s delegate to the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a Catholic philanthropic organization that serves the poor. He also has been a paid national commentator for CNN.
“New York is in turmoil right now, and there’s a critical need for firm, measured voices in the state Legislature,” he said. “Peaceful protesters should be respected. We should encourage thoughtful dialogue and all sides of a debate must be heard. Violence, rioting, vandalism, and those seeking unrest and anarchy, however, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
In his statement, the candidate also called for an independent investigation of nursing home deaths caused by COVID-19, an issue for which his former rival’s administration has been taking a lot of flak.
Harckham, who had no Democratic challengers, said he welcomed Astorino’s candidacy Thursday, but was confident “that voters will send me back to Albany in November because they are even more ready this year to say ‘no’ to Trump and surrogates like his close friend Rob Astorino.”
Harckham said he was elected to the state post “because voters rejected Donald Trump’s divisive and reckless politics.”
The senator said he was “deeply involved” with relief efforts related to the pandemic, so he planned to continue to “focus on safeguarding and helping our residents for now.”
Harckham then listed some of his accomplishments during the last two years. Those included securing “record-high funding for our schools without raising taxes,” passing “critical legislation to protect our environment” and delivering “over $8 million in state-funded infrastructure investments to municipalities.”
He also said he helped provide “vital funding to our veterans, seniors and first responders.”
As part of the Senate majority, he said he helped pass legislation protecting reproductive health care and adult victims of childhood abuse. He also spoke of the enactment of “common-sense gun safety measures” and the making of voting during elections “easier and more accessible.”
Harckham, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, claimed to have “doubled treatment times, reduced costs and eliminated barriers to life-saving treatment.”
Astorino, a 53-year-old lifelong Westchester resident, said that, as county executive, he submitted eight straight budgets without a tax increase.
He also claimed credit for creating a bipartisan governing coalition that achieved “concrete results” in county government.
Astorino said the state “is being challenged as perhaps never before, and it’s imperative that taxpayers be vigorously defended in the coming legislative term.”
“There are many in Albany already calling for dramatic new tax hikes, and middle-class families can’t afford to pay a penny more. Without firm, common-sense voices at the table to push back against tax hikes—not to mention ill-conceived criminal justice blunders like cashless bail that’s putting dangerous criminals back onto our streets—the steady flow of families abandoning New York could become a torrent. We must not let that happen,” his statement continued.
Among the highlights of Astorino’s inaugural campaign video, titled “Rebuild,” was his contention that New York’s “troubles didn’t start with the coronavirus lockdown.” He blamed the state’s “record deficits” and high taxes for causing 1 million New Yorkers to move away in the past 10 years.
Astorino said his administration helped create more than 44,000 new jobs, opened up child care slots for working parents, and earned Westchester “the highest credit rating of any county in the state.”
It did it, he claimed, “by bringing people together developing ground-breaking programs that eliminated veterans’ homelessness and the Fatherhood Initiative that helped at-risk dads get back into the lives of their children.”
He also spoke of term limits and “tough new ethics laws.”
The candidate hopes to “jump-start” the economy by “reducing taxes, reining in excessive spending, and eliminating the regulations that do little but kill jobs and ingenuity.”
Schools can be improved, he said, “by putting parents and teachers back in charge.”
He also called for strengthening “public safety by repealing the reckless cashless bail law and by improving our police—not defunding or abolishing them.”