WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY, April 23, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Rob Astorino is in his fifth year as county executive of Westchester County, New York. And he says he's the right man for the job of governor of New York State, a position currently held by Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Astorino, who was recently in Washington to solicit support and fundraising dollars from the Susan B. Anthony List, defended the right to life in an interview with LifeSiteNews. He also criticized Cuomo, who said in January that conservatives “who are right to life [and] anti-gay” are “extreme” and “have no place in the state of New York.”
The GOP candidate says he opposes abortion in all cases except for rape, incest, and life of the mother.
“I respect everyone's religious beliefs, or non-beliefs,” said Astorino. “I respect everyone's point of view, even though I may not agree with it. The last thing I would do is, as County Executive of Westchester, or as governor of the state, is to tell them to leave. To tell them they are not welcome.”
“If, for some reason, they disagree with me on political philosophy or on life — it's so outrageous. He's never apologized, and it's beyond what any governor should ever say,” continued the GOP candidate.
Astorino, who is the only Republican running for his party's nomination, said that “tolerance” is required. “We need tolerance, we need to understand each other, respect each other.”
He noted that “there are probably no issues I agree with … on abortion” with abortion giant Planned Parenthood, but that he “understand[s] they have a right to be here under the law.”
The Republican said that he is “going to try and change hearts and minds, but for anyone who's pro-choice would I sit there and say 'Get out of New York, you don't belong here?'”
“Come on, that's ridiculous.”
Describing himself as “Catholic, pro-life,” and “attend[ing] weekly church services with my family,” Astorino said that he doesn't “impose those views on others.” He said that he believes “what is happening today is religion is being chased away, and I also believe that with abortion apparently, this has become the new politics for the Democratic Party.” Astorino said that “and unless you go all the way, to the moment of birth, you're not going to get the endorsements of NOW, or NARAL, or Planned Parenthood.”
“I respect views, viewpoints, and all different religions,” he stated.
One of Cuomo's most controversial legislative efforts is the “Women's Equality Act,” which includes a platform position to “Protect a Woman’s Freedom of Choice.” Astorino said that while “I think most of us can support most points in the Women's Equality Act,” the abortion component “is so radical, and so out of touch that even New Yorkers who consider themselves pro-choice” oppose it.
“Governor Cuomo refused to negotiate” on this part of the bill, according to Astorino, and “refused to separate [it] from the rest of the bill.” Calling it “abortion on demand up to birth,” Astorino said that “the last thing we should be doing, and what I vehemently would oppose, and would veto in a second, is any expansion of our abortion laws here in New York. We should all be working together with what President Clinton said, right? We should be making it rare, and safe. I don't see how this makes it safer for women who can go in somewhat unregulated clinics, and have non-physicians perform abortions in the third trimester.”
While Astorino says he opposes abortion except for rape, incest, and life of the mother, he also “recognize[s] the political atmosphere in New York, and what it is, and Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, this state made their abortion laws before Roe v. Wade. So, abortion is the law in New York State, and it's probably not going backwards too much in the near future.”
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The abortions Astorino does support being legal are “a tough issue, too, because all life should be sacred. And that's an area where there can be a legitimate public policy debate on, certainly always in the life of the mother, which generally never happens, but certainly that should always be there. For me, that's even in Catholic doctrine, too, so I think we're pretty consistent with that.”
“But nobody can argue that — in New York, especially — that it's not easy to get an abortion. We are the abortion capital of the world. Nobody can claim it's difficult, that there's an abortion battle here to abolish abortion — that's just not happening in New York,” said Astorino.
“To continuously try to expand [abortion], I don't know how that helps teenagers,” says Astorino. “I don't know how that helps women in any way. And we need to have a frank discussion about this, and there does need to be alternatives.”
“We should be promoting adoption. I don't know why promoting adoption would be controversial.”
Democrats have a voter registration advantage in New York, but Astorino — who said at a recent campaign event that enrollment in Westchester County gives Democrats a two-to-one advantage — believes “of course we can win.” At the campaign event, he said that building coalitions is important, and “you've … got to offer something” to non-traditional Republican voters.
Astorino faces a tough battle in his effort to reach voters who don't already stand behind him. Cuomo and his allies — including pro-abortion groups and environmental organizations — are planning a series of attack ads that could cost as much as $10 million. The goal is to make Astorino look like a “right wing nut.”
However, a major backer of Astorino, New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told LifeSiteNews in March that “Cuomo is the extremist. He's already said there is no room for people in New York State who are pro-life and are in favor of traditional marriage.”
In early March, Long told Newsday.com that he didn't think social issues would be a major factor in the gubernatorial race. Astorino also told LifeSiteNews that “the most important thing” in the race is “what's on everyone's mind — jobs, taxes.”
“People are leaving New York, they are throwing in the towel, in droves,” he said. “400,000 people have left New York in the last four years. We are dead last, 50th, in all the wrong categories. We have the highest taxes in America, the most corrupt government, the worst business climate, one of the highest electricity rates in America, the greatest population loss. [And] things have not gotten any better under Andrew Cuomo.”
“We need to reverse course. We were able to do that in Westchester County, where I've been County Executive now for my fifth year. Where we prioritized, we reduced spending, we reduced taxes, yet we're committed to those most in need.”
Astorino has previously said that since he became county executive, Westchester County has reduced the property tax levy or kept it the same, and spending has gone down from $1.8 million to $1.7 million.
Some of those “most in need” are black Americans. “I read somewhere that the most dangerous place to be for an African-American child is in the womb,” said Astorino. “And that's really sad, because the abortion rate is through the roof for African-American women, and 60% of pregnancies end in termination.”
“There are a lot of reasons for that, and we've got to start addressing those,” says Astorino, who sees a connection between economic and social issues. “The breakdown of families in society, economic conditions — clearly, we want everyone to have a good-paying job, and an education. We don't want people to feel hopeless, that pregnancy should be a burden. And those are the kinds of things that we have to address in a real way.”
With seven months until the general election, Astorino is largely an unknown to state voters less than two months after declaring his candidacy. He has seven months to close a thirty-point margin between himself and Cuomo.