Pundit Says Republicans Avoid Hot-Button Issues To Soften Party's Image

RYE BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The race for governor of New York has barely begun and it’s already testy.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino owns the Republican nomination and, as CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday, he has cast Gov. Andrew Cuomo as dictatorial in a new campaign movie.

It was eerie — state Republicans depicting Cuomo as big brother in a take-off of the George Orwell book “1984” that was made into a movie.

“If upstate New York were a state unto itself, it would rank dead last under this governor,” the film says.

It was the opening salvo in Astorino’s underdog attempt to defeat Cuomo and deprive him of re-election to a second term.

“I can’t wait to call Rob Gov. Astorino,” former Gov. George Pataki said.

From using Pataki, who defeated Cuomo’s father, Mario, to an attack on how Andrew Cuomo’s live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lee, didn’t get building permits to improve their Mount Kisco home, Astorino pulled out all the stops.

The digs at Lee were subtle, with Astorino talking about how his wife, Sheila, wanted to redo their kitchen.

“But you know what we found? This is unbelievable. You actually need building permits to make home improvements. Did you know that?” Astorino says during the film to laughter.

Astorino called for an end to Cuomo’s unpopular Common Core curriculum and said he would support term limits for lawmakers and the governor. But there was none of the usual partisan rhetoric about abortion and gay marriage. Astorino’s pitch was all about New York as a high-tax state, Kramer reported.

“New York has the highest property taxes in America — 50th out of 50. It has the highest overall tax burden, 50th out of 50,” Astorino said.

Pundits told Kramer it was part of a strategy to broaden Astorino’s appeal.

“This was a candidate and a party that was on its best ideological behavior. They avoided hot-button issues,” said Larry Levy of Hofstra University. “It’s all about appealing, softening the party’s image.”

Demonstrators from women’s and other groups have tried of late to remind people about the GOP’s core issues, chanting against Astorino.

Next week it’s the Democrats’ turn. Cuomo will be nominated for a second term, but the question who will be his running mate?

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