This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (August 2018)
|County Executive of Westchester County|
January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2017
|Preceded by||Andrew Spano|
|Succeeded by||George Latimer|
|Member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators|
from the 3rd district
January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2004
|Preceded by||Sue Swanson|
|Succeeded by||John Nonna|
|Born||May 3, 1967|
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
|Education||Fordham University (BA)|
Robert P. Astorino (born May 3, 1967) is an American politician and television host who was the County Executive of Westchester County, New York from 2010 to 2018. He is also one of the founders of 1050 AM ESPN Radio in New York City, serving as the station's executive producer and as executive producer of The Michael Kay Show. Astorino has served as a host on the MSG Network.
A Republican, Astorino served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators from 2003 to 2005, when he launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat then-Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. In 2009, he challenged Spano again and prevailed. Astorino was re-elected in 2013, defeating Democratic challenger Noam Bramson. In 2014, he was the Republican nominee for New York state governor in that year's gubernatorial election, but was defeated by incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. In 2017, Astorino ran for a third term as Westchester County Executive, but was defeated by Democratic challenger George Latimer. In September 2018, Astorino took a government relations position at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.
Astorino resides in Mount Pleasant, New York with his wife and their three children.
- 1 Early career and background
- 2 Political career
- 2.1 Early years
- 2.2 Westchester County Legislature
- 2.3 Westchester County Executive
- 2.4 2014 gubernatorial election
- 2.5 Relationship with Donald Trump
- 2.6 Relationship with Robert Mercer
- 2.7 Legal issues
- 2.8 Electoral history
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Early career and background
Astorino grew up in Thornwood, New York. He is of three-quarters Italian descent. He attended Westlake High School, and enrolled in Fordham University where he received a bachelor's degree in Communications in 1989. At the age of twenty one, while attending college, he was elected to the Mount Pleasant board of education, but resigned three years later to take a position at WFAS radio in White Plains. He later attended the Enforex School of International Studies in Barcelona, Spain where he became fluent in Spanish.
In 1994, Astorino's father, Robert Astorino, was arrested, charged, and convicted on federal corruption charges. At the time, the senior Astorino was the Chief of Detectives for the Mt. Vernon Police Department and he and three detectives were seen on film taking $10,000 dollars during an FBI sting. He pled guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison.
He is a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. After graduating, he hosted the weeknight sports shows Inside Sports on WFAS radio, served as host and producer of Sports Rap on the Sports Channel television network. In 2001, he helped launch ESPN Radio in New York City.
Astorino is also an anchor for the MSG Network program Talk of our Town. He is the recipient of the Associated Press award for Best Spot News Coverage and award for Best News Program, and the Metro New York Achievement in Radio award.
In 2001, he was one of the founders of 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. He directed the rebranding of New York's WEVD-AM 1050 from a talk radio station to an all sports format. He became the station's Senior Producer, and worked as Executive Producer of The Michael Kay Show. He was promoted to Station Executive Producer and served until 2005, when he resigned to run for Westchester County Executive.
As the producer of the 4 to 7 PM time slot, the team of talent assembled by Astorino included Michael Kay and Joey Salvia, and helped the show in its success against long time afternoon sports radio mainstay Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN. His accomplishments include securing broadcast rights for the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, also at the expense of WFAN.
In 2007, Astorino was hired as the first program director for Sirius Satellite Radio's "The Catholic Channel". He hosted a Thursday night program with Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop of New York.
Astorino was hesitant at first to work on religious radio, but he changed his mind when he found out "The Catholic Channel" would be different. He stated, "I think it's a great opportunity not just for the archdiocese but for the Catholic Church as a whole to reach out to people across the country with a message, and have a two-way conversation."
According to the Journal News, "With total authority over programming, the Archdiocese of New York was given the rare opportunity to play Michelangelo and create something new. Egan, who is not known to be a great communicator like his predecessor, Cardinal John O'Connor, gave the project his blessing. In addition to his show, he welcomed Sirius listeners when Sunday Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral was broadcast."
In 1991, Astorino defeated an incumbent town councilman in Mount Pleasant and was elected to the town board. He was reelected in 1995 and 1999. During his tenure on the town board, he served six years as Deputy Supervisor and 8 years as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which oversees the police department.
Westchester County Executive Andrew O'Rourke appointed Astorino to the Westchester County Board of Ethics in 1996, and he was reappointed by O'Rourke's successor, Andy Spano in 1999. He served one term on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and ran an aggressive campaign as a candidate for County Executive in 2005. Astorino was among the finalists for Lieutenant Governor to gubernatorial candidate John Faso in 2006.
Westchester County Legislature
In 2003, Astorino announced he was a candidate to replace retiring County Legislator Sue Swanson, who represented a district encompassing Mount Pleasant, Pleasantville, North Castle, West Harrison, and portions of northern Greenburgh. Astorino defeated his challenger with an aggressive campaign, which according to the Journal News, "raised the bar" for candidacies to the Board of Legislators.
As a county legislator, Astorino was involved in plans to redevelop the Saw Mill River Parkway and restore wetlands, which is often flooded dangerously during rain storms, and coordinated meetings between the environmentalist groups, New York State Department of Transportation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 2005. He helped the board stop Westchester's payments of a "franchise fee" to their bus operator, Liberty Transit Inc., after drawing attention that the contract with the company did not provide for such a payment.
Once elected, he served on the committees for parks and recreation; housing; health; public safety and criminal justice; youth; and county officers and departments. After serving only two years, Astorino opted not to run for reelection, instead focusing on a challenge to incumbent County Executive Andy Spano. As an outgoing legislator, he opposed the pay increases that were enacted for board members.
Westchester County Executive
The 2005 campaign for Westchester County Executive pitted the two-term Democratic incumbent Andy Spano, against Astorino, a Republican. The race featured instances where Astorino publicized a homemade video of a security breach at the County's Kenisco dam, while the incumbent, according to the New York Times, "in the face of record property-tax increases, has busied himself with a campaign against steroids for schoolchildren, as a follow-up to an anti-bullying initiative that featured admonitions from Spider-Man."
As of 2008, real property taxes in Westchester had increased by 54% since 2000. Making the tax issue the centerpiece of his campaign, he railed against two straight years of double digit property tax increases in the county budget, and called Spano out of touch with voters, criticizing a visit to China by Spano during the seven-week Bee Line Bus strike which cost taxpayers $3 million.
Facing an uphill battle in a Democratic County against an incumbent who raised four times as much money, Astorino made a surprisingly strong showing and was defeated by 30,000 votes. Overall voter turnout was light and incumbents were largely successful throughout Westchester County.
On March 21, 2009, Astorino announced that he would run again for Westchester County Executive. In a surprising upset, he was elected to the position on November 3, 2009, defeating incumbent Andy Spano by 15 percentage points 
Astorino announced that he would run again for a third term for Westchester County Executive, despite his statement during the 2014 campaign that "eight years is enough for anyone" in office. During the campaign, Astorino outspent his opponent, State Senator George Latimer, by more than 3-to-1. Additionally, Astorino was the beneficiary of over $1 million spent in the last two weeks of the race by a super PAC funded by Robert Mercer. Towards the end of the campaign, on October 27, 2017, Astorino was damaged by revelations from testimony in the Norman Seabrook trial. Campaign donor Jonah Rechnitz testified that he had paid $5,790 to cover most of the cost of a Rolex Submariner for Astorino shortly before Astorino named him as a chaplain for the Westchester County Police. Another controversy in the closing days of the race was the disclosure of an email from an Astorino lieutenant to county employees that they should "expect to donate their time" by using paid time off to volunteer for Astorino's campaign.
Despite his fundraising advantage, Astorino was defeated by 13 points. Latimer credited grassroots groups throughout Westchester associated with the Indivisible movement with providing support essential to his victory.
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In 2010, the Westchester County Legislature passed a $1.2 million bond issue to finance the restoration of the Elijah Miller House. Astorino, who had previously supported preserving the building five years earlier as a member of the legislature, vetoed the measure, saying it should be supported by private funds.
2014 gubernatorial election
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On March 5, 2014, Astorino announced that he would run for New York State Governor against incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Astorino called for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's resignation as chairman of Republican Governors Association for his lack of support, which he claimed was in deference to Cuomo. Astorino was supported by Robert Mercer's $1.55 million donation to a super PAC backing his bid. The super PAC would end up accounting for nearly a quarter of the total money spent on Astorino's campaign. He was defeated in the election.
Relationship with Donald Trump
Astorino has been open about his close relationship with Donald Trump, saying he's had a "great relationship" with Trump for 15 years. Astorino said "I consider him a friend…He's always been gracious to me, and we've always been able to get along real well, even when he was thinking of running for governor." As of September 2016, Astorino had received $15,000 in campaign contributions from Trump.
Before Trump's win in the November 2016 election, there was speculation that Astorino was being considered to be the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Dr. Ben Carson was nominated and confirmed in March 2017.
Relationship with Robert Mercer
As of November 2017, Astorino had been the biggest beneficiary of donations by Robert Mercer to state and local campaigns in New York. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah each gave the maximum $26,900 to Astorino's 2013 reelection campaign. Additionally, Mercer gave $1.55 million to a super PAC supporting Astorino's 2014 gubernatorial campaign and $1 million to a super PAC supporting Astorino's 2017 re-election campaign.
Lawsuit from the Westchester Independence Party
On October 31, 2013, the Westchester Independence Party filed a suit against Astorino and other defendants, alleging that Astorino and his campaign attempted to win the party's nomination by coercing dozens of staff members, political associates, friends, and family members to switch their party affiliation to the Independence Party. The lawsuit alleged Hatch Act violations and also included allegations of racketeering, conspiracy, and wire and mail fraud. On September 29, 2015, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas dismissed the case, but denied the request to have the Independence Party plaintiffs pay for the legal fees.
Astorino used Westchester County funds to pay $279,391 in legal fees for his defense rather than having his campaign pay. The move was described as a "borderline call, at best" by the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Norman Seabrook trial
In 2016, Astorino's office received subpeonas from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in conjunction with the investigation into Astorino and Bill de Blasio donor Jonah Rechnitz. Various companies tied to the Brooklyn-based businessman donated a combined $25,000 to Astorino's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Astorino in turn made Rechnitz and friend Jeremy Reichberg county police chaplains, providing both with special parking permits, despite neither being religious officials. Rechnitz later testified under oath in the federal corruption trial of disgraced NYC corrections union boss Norman Seabrook to a history of quid-pro-quo with Astorino, most notably helping Astorino obtain a $10,000 Rolex Submariner watch, which was later confiscated by federal investigators. Astorino has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that he went jewelry shopping with Rechnitz because they were meeting next door. Astorino has claimed that he paid for the watch in full, but the FBI has entered into evidence a $5,790 check with the memo line "ROLEX" cut by Rechnitz to Daniela Diamonds, which sold Astorino the watch. Rechnitz has testified that Astorino knew about the check. An investigation by Andrew Whitman of FiOS1 showed that the $1,960 Astorino paid for the watch was unrealistically low, but that the $7,750 paid by Astorino & Rechnitz combined would be typical for a watch of that age and model.
|Democratic||John M. Nonna||5,074||47.7%|
|Republican||Rob Astorino||5,564||52.3%||Republican hold|
|Democratic||Andy Spano (incumbent)||111,746||58.2%||Democratic hold|
|Democratic||Andrew Spano (incumbent)||70,739||43.10%||-15.1% Republican Gain|
|Democratic||Noam Bramson||80,362||44%||+0.9% Republican Hold|
|Republican||Rob Astorino (incumbent)||102,505||56%||-0.9%|
|Gubernatorial election in New York, 2014|
|Working Families||Andrew Cuomo||126,244||3.22%||0.13%|
|Women's Equality||Andrew Cuomo||53,802||1.41%||N/A|
|Total||Andrew Cuomo||Kathy Hochul||2,069,480||54.19%||8.86%|
|Total||Rob Astorino||Christopher Moss||1,536,879||40.24%||6.71%|
|Green||Howie Hawkins||Brian Jones||184,419||4.86%||3.56%|
|Libertarian||Michael McDermott||Chris Edes||16,967||0.42%||0.63%|
|Sapient||Steven Cohn||Bobby Kalotee||4,963||0.13%||N/A|
|Democratic||George Latimer||116,767||57%||+13% Democratic Gain|
|Republican||Rob Astorino (incumbent)||89,463||43%||-13%|
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| Member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators
from the 3rd district
| Executive of Westchester County
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of New York