THE ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Former HUD secretary and current governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, continues to accuse his GOP gubernatorial competition, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, of backing discrimination against minorities because Astorino is fighting a HUD plan to overrule local zoning laws in Westchester.
Now, Astorino is receiving back-up from some Westchester County African American leaders who support the job he’s done as county executive. One prominent ally in the African-American community, Pearl Quarles of New Rochelle, the first-ever black woman to hold a seat on the Westchester County Legislature, has gone on the offensive against Cuomo.
Quarles blasted Cuomo in a new Astorino ad, stating, “Shame on you Andrew Cuomo! Accusing Rob Astorino of discrimination is unforgivable. You obviously don’t know what racism is, so don’t disrespect those of us who do.”
“Rob Astorino opposes that scheme you back to hand local zoning decisions over to Washington. That crazy plan would lower our home values, raise taxes and overcrowd our schools.
“That’s why the most respected community leaders oppose it too. Mr Cuomo, your use of the race card disgusts me.”
HUD says their plan, which uses Westchester County as a test lab for other possible zoning overrides around the country, is intended to overcome de facto segregation they say local zoning laws have created. Astorino and most property owners in Westchester County disagree, claiming that putting such local powers in federal hands is illegal and wrong, while pointing out that Westchester County is one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation.
Cuomo, who like his competitor is a caucasian and an Italian-American, last month released a negative ad crudely attacking Astorino administration’s legal battle with HUD, and at the Democratic Convention in Long Island this week, Cuomo and Democratic allies again portrayed Astorino as a racial bogeyman.
Astorino has had record success getting votes amongst African American and Hispanics in Westchester, more than doubling the average national GOP vote count amongst African Americans with 26 percent and winning over half the Hispanic vote. If Astorino, who is fluent in Spanish and known to flaunt it on the campaign trail, were to come anywhere near those numbers statewide, he would defeat Cuomo easily in the November election.
Could this be what’s coloring Cuomo’s campaign tactics?
In the 2013 Westchester County race, it was Astorino’s Democratic challenger Noam Bramson, mayor of New Rochelle, who had earned the scorn of many leaders in Westchester County’s African-American community. Bramson had infamously engaged in an ongoing public brawl with the New Rochelle branch of the NAACP, at times brazenly disrespecting the organization.
Though Astorino’s relative popularity amongst minorities in Westchester County clearly demonstrates his ability to communicate beyond traditional partisan divides, it remains to be seen whether Astorino will have time to sufficiently engage minority voters and overcome Cuomo’s smear tactics.
See Pearl Quarles’ reprimand of Cuomo’s use of the race card at the following link: