RACE FOR GOVERNOR: ROB ASTORINO’S BATTLE TO REPRESENT THE GOP

New Yorkers are just days away from the June 28 primaries for governor and deciding who will face off in November for the state’s highest office. With the election right around the corner, we sit down with former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, one of the four top Republicans vying for the GOP nomination next Tuesday. Astorino came the closest of any recent Republican to winning the governor’s race when he ran in 2014 against Governor Andrew Cuomo, and tonight he shares his vision for New York and why he wants to represent the GOP this fall.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

WITH EARLY VOTING ALREADY UNDER WAY, NEW YORKERS ARE JUST DAYS AWAY FROM THE JUNE GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARIES AND FROM DECIDE WHO WILL FACE OFF IN NOVEMBER FOR THE STATE'S HIGHEST OFFICE.

TONIGHT, WE'RE SITTING DOWN WITH ONE OF THE FOUR TOP REPUBLICANS VYING FOR THE GOP NOMINATION NEXT TUESDAY.

FORMER WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROB ASTORINO BECAME THE CLOSEST OF ANY RECENT REPUBLICAN TO WINNING THE GOVERNOR'S RACE WHEN HE RAN AGAINST ANDREW CUOMO IN 2014.

NOW, HE'S BACK AND LOOKING TO PREVAIL OVER HIS PRIMARY OPPONENTS, LEE ZELDEN, ANDREW GIULIANI AND BUSINESSMAN HARRY WILSON FOR THE RIGHT TO REPRESENT REPUBLICANS THIS FALL.

MR. ASTORINO JOINS US NOW.

BEFORE WE START, I SHOULD SAY THAT WE'RE TAPING THIS BEFORE THE SECOND DEBATE AND ALSO THAT WE'RE DOING HALF A PROGRAM BECAUSE YOUR VERY BUSY SCHEDULE.

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME.

SO, LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT.

AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, YOU RAN FOR GOVERNOR AGAINST ANDREW CUOMO IN 2014 AND NOW YOU'RE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR AGAIN.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?

AND WHY SHOULD REPUBLICAN VOTERS CHOOSE YOU OVER YOUR OPPONENTS?

WELL, THANKS, RAFAEL, FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME START WITH THAT.

I REALLY APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK DIRECTLY TO VOTERS, NO MATTER WHAT PARTY, BECAUSE IT ALL COMES DOWN TO PICKING SOMEONE IN NOVEMBER, BUT RIGHT NOW, IT'S FOR REPUBLICANS TO LISTEN AND SAY, WHO IS THE MOST QUALIFIED?

THE MOST EXPERIENCED?

AND THE MOST ELECTABLE REPUBLICAN.

AND THAT'S REALLY WHAT MATTERS.

AND, YOU KNOW, I RAN IN WESTCHESTER IN '09 FOR COUNTY EXECUTIVE AND NOBODY GAVE ME A SHOT TO WIN, BECAUSE IT'S A DEEP BLUE COUNTY, AND YET, I WENT EVERYWHERE AND IT WAS, REMEMBER THE BANKING CRISIS HAPPENED, THE ECONOMY WAS TEETERING BACK THEN SIMILAR TO NOW, AND I JUST SAID, STOP THE TAX MADNESS, LET'S GET BACK TO SOME NORMALCY.

LET'S MAKE GOVERNMENT WORK AND BE COMPETENT.

I WENT EVERYWHERE, I WENT TO AFRICAN AMERICAN NEIGHBORHOODS, I WENT TO HISPANIC AREAS, WHERE I SPEAK SPANISH, AND I DIDN'T GIVE UP ANY INCH, BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDED TO HEAR MY MESSAGE AND LO AND BEHOLD, WE WON AND WON BIG AND THEN I GOT RE-ELECT AND WE GOVERNED BY HOLDING THE LINE ON SPENDING, GIVING PEOPLE A CHANCE TO GET BACK ON THEIR FEET, NEVER RAISE TAXES, WE CUT THEM.

WE HELPED SMALL AND BIG BUSINESSES SUCCEED AND CREATE JOBS IN WESTCHESTER.

SO, I THINK REALLY WHAT ACCEPT RATES ME IS, YES, I RAN AGAINST CUOMO, BECAUSE I KNEW WHO HE WAS BACK IN '14.

I KNEW WE WERE ON THE WRONG TRACK.

I KNEW THE CORRUPTION THAT SWIRLED AROUND HIM.

AND I SAID SO BACK THEN.

AND I THINK I WAS RIGHT AND I ALSO THINK IF WE HAD CHANGED COURSE BACK THEN, WE WOULDN'T BE SO IN DEBT, WE WOULDN'T BE SO HIGHLY TAXED AND WE WOULDN'T BE SPENDING LIKE NUTS AND WE WOULD BE A BETTER STATE RIGHT NOW.

SO, I'M HERE TO FINISH THE JOB OF WHAT I STARTED IN '14.

NOW, TWO YEARS AGO, YOU LOST A RACE FOR STATE SENATE SEAT IN A DISTRICT WHERE VOTERS PRESUMABLY KNEW YOU BEST.

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN WIN THE GUBERNATORIAL SLOT, THE HIGHEST ELECTED POSITION IN THE STATE, JUST TWO YEARS AFTER THIS LOSS?

WELL, I DON'T THINK PEOPLE REALLY MATTER WHAT HAPPENED TWO YEARS AGO.

THEY'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO WHAT I REPRESENT AND WHAT I WILL DO AS GOVERNOR WITH MY EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE.

I THINK, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO PUT WESTCHESTER IN PERSPECTIVE A LITTLE BIT.

IT IS ONE OF THE DEEPEST, BLUEST COUNTIES IN ALL OF NEW YORK.

DONALD TRUMP LOST WESTCHESTER BY 37 POINTS.

AND SO, THERE WAS THAT TIDAL WAVE OF EXTRA DEMOCRATS COMING OUT TO VOTE AND INDEPENDENTS AND EVEN SOME REPUBLICANS TURNING THEIR BACK ON THEIR OWN PARTY, BECAUSE OF DONALD TRUMP, RIGHT, WRONG OR INDIFFERENT, BUT THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.

THERE WAS A MASSIVE WAVE AND A LOT OF GOOD REPUBLICANS ALL AROUND THE STATE AND I CAN SAY A COUNTRY, YOU KNOW, GOT KIND OF SWEPT AWAY.

BUT THAT'S REALLY WHAT HAPPENS, SORT OF THE EBB AND FLOW OF POLITICS AND RIGHT NOW, WE'RE IN A DIFFERENT TIME, WHERE JOE BIDEN IS STRUGGLING MIGHTILY AND THE COUNTRY IS ON ITS NEEDS ECONOMICALLY, INFLATION IS HURTING PEOPLE, CRIME IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL, PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY'VE LOST THEIR VOICE AND, YOU KNOW, I SAY TO THEM, HELP IS ON THE WAY, I'VE HAD TO DO THIS BEFORE.

I STEPPED IN WITH A DEMOCRATIC COUNTY BOARD THE ENTIRE TIME AND YET I ACHIEVED JUST ABOUT ALL OF MY GOALS AND SO I'M READY FOR THIS AND I HAD SUCCESS IN PULLING PEOPLE OVER FROM OTHER PARTIES THAT NORMALLY WOULDN'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES.

YOU MENTIONED A COUPLE OF THEM.

LET'S BEGIN WITH CRIME.

HOW DO YOU PROPOSE TO REVERSE THE EXPLODING RISING CRIME THAT NEW YORK CITY AND NEW YORK STATE HAS BEEN EXPERIENCING FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS?

NO, I THINK, RAFAEL, WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS GO BACK TO WHAT WORKED IN NEW YORK CITY.

WHEN YOU REALLY ANALYZE -- AND RAY KELLY AND OTHERS WHO SERVED AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NYPD AND OTHER HIGH-RANKING IN SUBURBS AND IN THE CITY, AND THEY ALL SAID THE SAME THING.

WE HAVE HIGH CONCENTRATION AREAS THAT MOST OF THE VIOLENT CRIME, DRUGS, GANGS, WEAPON USE, YOU KNOW, MURDERS, WHERE THEY ARE AND WE'VE GOT TO ATTACK THAT AND WE'VE GOTTEN AWAY FROM THAT.

THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW, A UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICER ON THE SUBWAY PLATFORMS WILL GO A LONG WAY TO PROTECTING RIDERS.

THINGS LIKE CRACKING DOWN ON THE SMALL STUFF, WHICH THEN BECOMES THE BIG STUFF IF YOU BECOME LENIENT AND LOOK THE OTHER WAY ON CRIME.

GETTING BACK TO THINGS LIKE STOP, QUESTION, AND FRISK, WHICH IS CONSTITUTIONAL, WHICH IS STILL IN OUR PENAL CODE IN NEW YORK, WHICH WORKED.

NOW, YOU CAN SAY SOME OF IT WAS ABUSED AT A PERIOD OF TIME, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN IT CAN'T BE DONE THE RIGHT WAY AND WE'VE GOT TO GET BACK TO THAT.

THINGS LIKE THE ANTI-CRIME UNITS.

RIGHT NOW, POLICE OFFICERS CAN'T BE IN REALITY, THEY CAN'T BE UNDERCOVER, THEY HAVE TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS POLICE OFFICERS.

THAT PUTS THEM AT A HIGH DISADVANTAGE.

AND THEN THINGS LIKE NO CASH BAIL HAS TO BE REPEALED.

ALVIN BRAGG AND OTHER D.A.s WHO REFUSE TO PROSECUTE CRIMES, WE'VE GOT TO GET BACK TO WHAT MADE NEW YORK SAFE AND IF PEOPLE DON'T FEEL SAFE, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO COME INTO NEW YORK CITY, YOU KNOW, TO SPEND THEIR MONEY FROM THE SUBURBS, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO WORK IN NEW YORK CITY, BUSINESSES ARE GOING TO LEAVE, AND WE'RE SEEING ALL OF THAT RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY COMING AFTER THE PANDEMIC.

ALL RIGHT, WE HAVE TO MOVE ALONG.

I WOULD STAY ON CRIME, BUT WE'RE SHORT OF TIME, SO, LET'S TURN TO THE ECONOMY.

ALMOST EVERY EXPERT IS SAYING A RECESSION IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, IF IT'S INDEED NOT ALREADY HERE AND MANY OF THOSE EXPERTS SAY THAT WHEN IT DOES COME FULL BLOWN, IT'S GOING TO BE WORSE THAN THE GREAT RECESSION OF 2008, BECAUSE IT WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY INFLATION.

YEAH.

IF IT HAPPENS AND YOU ARE THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK, WHAT WILL YOU DO TO MITIGATE THE PAIN THAT NEW YORKERS ARE GOING TO BE EXPERIENCING?

IT'S GOING TO BE A CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE COMING OUR WAY, AND A LOT OF IT IS ALL SELF-INFLICTED, BECAUSE WE'RE SPENDING WAY TOO MUCH, NOT THINKING THERE ARE ANY CONSEQUENCES TO THAT AND WE'RE TAXING TOO HIGH, SO, THE MIDDLE CLASS, THE WORKING CLASS, THEY CAN'T CATCH A BREAK HERE.

YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE VERY WEALTHY, IT HURTS A LITTLE BIT, MAYBE, BUT YOU CAN STILL LIVE YOUR LIFE.

BUT MOST PEOPLE ARE HAVING A REALLY ROUGH TIME.

IT COST ME $111 TO FILL UP BY TRAVERSE THE OTHER DAY.

THINK ABOUT THAT.

SO, I'M GOING TO DO WHAT I DID IN WEST CHER.

I CAME IN A MASSIVE DEFICIT, TAXING AND SPENDING OUT OF CONTROL.

WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT ECONOMIC CRISIS BACK THEN AND I SAID, LET'S GET BACK TO THE BASICS, OKAY?

WE HAVE ALL THE MONEY WE NEED.

LET'S SPEND IT WISELY, LET'S DRILL DOWN ON WHAT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO DO, PRIORITIZE AND THAT WORKED.

AND THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IN NEW YORK.

TAXES ARE SO HIGH PEOPLE ARE LEAVING.

THAT'S INARGUABLE.

WE HAVE -- MORE PEOPLE HAVE LEFT NEW YORK THAN ANY OTHER STATE AND TOOK THEIR MONEY WITH THEM AND THERE'S A REASON WHY AND I THINK A VALID REASON WHY THEY'RE FLEEING.

SO, WE HAVE TO STOP THE CHAOS, WE HAVE TO GET BACK TO BASICS.

WE HAVE TO SPEND WITHIN OUR MEANS.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE TURN OUR BACKS ON PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP.

IT JUST MEANS WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE THE PROGRAMS ARE WORKING, THAT THEY'RE ACCOUNTABLE AND OUR MONEY IS WISELY SPENT.

AND WE ALSO NEED TO REDUCE TAXES IN A MEANINGFUL WAY, AS WELL AS REGULATIONS WHICH ARE JUST CHOKING OUR BUSINESSES.

AND IF THEY'RE CHOKING, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO SURVIVE AND THAT MEANS UNEMPLOYMENT WILL RISE, AS WELL.

ALL RIGHT, LET'S MOVE ALONG.

AFTER THE BUFFALO AND UVALDE MASS SHOOTINGS, THERE SEEMS TO BE GENUINE MOMENTUM.

A LITTLE, PERHAPS EVEN MORE LONG-LASTING THAN WE USUALLY SEE AFTER MASS SHOOTINGS.

TO ACHIEVE SERIOUS GUN CONTROL.

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION HERE IN NEW YORK STATE, DO YOU SUPPORT IT?

DO YOU SUPPORT THE FEDERAL GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION THAT EXISTS AND ARE THERE ANY GUN CONTROL LEGISLATIONS THAT YOU WOULD ADD IN THE FEDERAL LEVEL OR THE STATE LEVEL?

SO, A FEW THINGS.

FIRST OF ALL, RAISING THE AGE TO 21 TO BUY A RIFLE HAS BEEN FOUND UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY FEDERAL COURTS, SO IT'S LIKELY TO NOT LAST HERE IN NEW YORK, EITHER, AND THEY KNEW THAT.

THE MICROSTAMPING THING WILL NOT PREVENT ONE CRIME.

SO, I THINK WE'VE GOT TO REALLY FOCUS AND CHANGE THE WORD GUN CONTROL, WHICH IS AN INADAMANT OBJECT, TO CRIMINAL CONTROL.

THE VAST MAJORITY, ALMOST ALL, ARE CRIMINAL ACTS.

THEY ARE FINDING WEAPONS, YOU KNOW, STEALING THEM, TAKING THEM FROM SOMEBODY WHO IS A REGISTERED GUN OWNER, A FAMILY MEMBER OFTENTIMES, THERE IS SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE US AND A CRISIS WE FACE IN THIS COUNTRY RIGHT NOW, AND IN NEW YORK, WE'VE CUT BEDS TO PSYCHIATRIC IS AREAS.

WE'RE NOT DEALING WITH THAT ISSUE.

SO, INSTEAD OF ADDING LAWS AND LAWS AND LAWS, BECAUSE EVERY TIME SOMETHING HAPPENS, EVERYONE SCREAMS DO SOMETHING, BUT EVERYTHING THAT WE'VE DONE HAS NOT WORKED, SO ADDING NEW LAWS IS NOT GOING TO BE THE, YOU KNOW, THE ELIXOR.

REALLY FOCUSING, LIKE I SAID BEFORE, WHERE THE REAL PROBLEMS EXIST, YOU KNOW, UNFORTUNATELY, 75% OF ALL GUN DEATHS ARE DEATH BY GUN ARE SUICIDES.

THAT STRIKES TO THE HEART OF A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS IN THIS COUNTRY.

THE REST ARE BY CRIMINALS WHO HAVE A RECORD OF, OVERWHELMING OF THE REST ARE BY CRIMINALS WHO HAVE A RECORD AND BY THEIR VERY NATURE COULD CARE LESS WHAT THE LAWS ARE.

SO, REAL QUICKLY, BECAUSE WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

YOU'RE A RIGHT TO LIFE REPUBLICAN.

IF YOU GET ELECTED GOVERNOR, YOU MAY BE GOVERNOR AFTER ROE V.

WADE IS KILLED, IS OVERTHROWN BY THE SUPREME COURT.

IT LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE HEADING THAT WAY.

IF THAT HAPPENS, THE STATES ARE GOING TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ABORTION LAWS.

WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING TO ROLL BACK THE NEW YORK STATE ABORTION LAWS IF YOU'RE ELECTED GOVERNOR?

SO, NEW YORK OBVIOUSLY THREE YEARS AGO LIT UP THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING TO CELEBRATE THAT THEY PUT INTO LAW THE LEGAL RIGHT FOR AN ABORTION.

I -- IT'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

THIS IS USED BY BOTH SIDES TO RAISE MONEY AND CREATE A BOOGEYMAN, BUT THE BIGGEST ISSUE RIGHT NOW IS TAXES, THE ECONOMY, INFLATION, ALL OF THOSE, CRIME, THAT'S WHAT MOST PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT.

I THINK WE CAN HAVE A REASONABLE DISCUSSION ON WHAT REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS SHOULD WE HAVE, THIRD TRIMESER ABORTIONS, UP TO THE MOMENT OF BIRTH FOR BASICALLY ANY REASON IF YOU CAN FIND A DOCTOR TO DO SO, I THINK THAT'S VERY MUCH OUT OF STEP WITH WHAT MOST PRO-CHOICERS CONSIDER TO BE RIGHT.

SO, I DO THINK WE SHOULD HAVE SOME DISCUSSION IN THIS STATE.

REALISTICALLY, IT'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

THERE'S A HARD CORE DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY IN THE ASSEMBLY AND IN THE SENATE, SO THE REALITY IS -- WE'RE NOT A RED STATE, WE'RE NOT A PURPLE STATE, WE ARE A BLUE STATE ON THIS.

ALL RIGHT, MR. ASTORINO, WE ONLY HAVE A MINUTE.

IN 2020, PRESIDENT BIDEN OR THEN CANDIDATE BIDEN DEFEATED FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP BY ALMOST 25 POINTS, WHICH SHOWS THAT AT LEAST AMONG THE GENERAL VOTING POPULATION, MR. TRUMP IS NOT THAT --

IN NEW YORK, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

YES.

HE'S VERY POPULAR, IT SEEMS, AMONG REPUBLICAN PRIMARY VOTERS.

HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THAT?

HOW DO YOU EMBRACE MR. TRUMP DURING THE PRIMARY WITHOUT IT BACKFIRING ON NEW THE GENERAL ELECTION?

WE HAVE ABOUT 40 SECONDS.

I -- LOOK, I'M RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

WE HAVE ENORMOUS PROBLEMS.

DONALD TRUMP IS NOT INVOLVED IN THIS RACE AND I WOULD SAY MOST PEOPLE THINK THAT PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS NOT DONE A GOOD JOB.

THE MESS WE'RE IN IS BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, ONE PARTY RULE RIGHT NOW AND I THINK WE DO NEED BALANCE IN ALBANY IN ORDER TO GIVE RELIEF TO PEOPLE.

PEOPLE THINK WE'RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK RIGHT NOW IN NEW YORK, THEN VOTE FOR KATHY HOCHUL.

THAT'S ALL THE TIME WE HAVE.

DO I GET A PBS UMBRELLA OR SOMETHING?

A TOTE BAG.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU, SIR.

THANK YOU.

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