BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A top Republican county official from New York City's northern suburbs took his new campaign for governor on the road Thursday by appealing for votes from the Bronx to Buffalo.
A day after he announced he was running, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino stood on the steps of the Bronx courthouse and criticized incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's leadership. He did the same after flying across the state for an event in Buffalo with U.S. Rep. Chris Collins.
At both stops, Astorino said 400,000 New Yorkers have fled the state in search of a better business climate and lower taxes.
"We have to lower taxes in this state so that everyone has an opportunity and a chance, either to start a business or to have a family," he said.
He said he kicked off his campaign tour in the Bronx because the county has been "forgotten economically" by the nation, and he touted his Hispanic voter base in Westchester County. The Bronx is the state's only county with a majority Hispanic population.
The candidate drew applause when he repeated his announcement in Spanish.
"I'm going to ask every New Yorker the same question: Are we winning or are we losing as a state?" he said. "If we are winning, then just re-elect Andrew Cuomo. But if we are losing — and I believe strongly that we are losing as a state — then we're going to have to make a U-turn and a change of direction."
The "New York is losing" theme continued in Buffalo, where Astorino met reporters at ZeptoMetrix, a biotechnology company owned by Collins. A couple of dozen supporters attended.
With the election nine months off, Astorino said he has time to make himself known around the state and to win the support of county party leaders.
Several New York Republicans have been trying to persuade real estate developer Donald Trump to challenge Cuomo. Trump has said he doesn't want a primary race.
Astorino planned to visit Rochester, Syracuse and Albany on Friday.
At the Bronx and Buffalo stops, about a dozen abortion rights activists held silent protests while the candidate, who said he is anti-abortion, campaigned.
Astorino shrugged off questions about Cuomo's sizable lead in the polls, saying polls go up and down. About twice as many Democrats as Republicans are registered to vote in New York.
A new NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Thursday shows Cuomo maintaining a strong lead over potential challengers but a sharp drop in his job approval rating among registered voters feeling tough economic times.
The poll has Cuomo leading Astorino by 40 percentage points and similar margins over other potential contenders, Trump and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino.
One major change since a November poll is a 10-point drop in the percentage of voters who believe Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist poll. The number fell from 52 percent to 42 percent, driven by substantial declines among black and Latino voters.
The poll surveyed 658 registered voters from Friday through Monday. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Barr reported from New York.