Members of the state's Conservative Party are unhappy with a plan by former Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino to re-christen a new political party he created last year. Zack Fink filed the following report.
When Rob Astorino ran against Andrew Cuomo in the governor's race last fall, he petitioned to create a new ballot line: the Stop Common Core party. The hope was that it would tap into voter anger toward President Barack Obama's education policy, which has been unpopular with suburban parents.
But with an eye towards running again for governor in 2018, Astorino wants to keep the party, only rename it "The Reform Party."
"We thought when they initially petitioned for the Common Core line that this was going to be a one-shot deal," said Fran Vella-Marrone, treasurer of the New York State Conservative Party.
On Monday night, the state's Conservative Party held its 48th annual conference in Albany. There, the state executive committee unanimously passed a motion questioning the need for a reform party.
"It was a single-issue party, and I think my leaders feel hurt that they worked so hard to get Rob on the ballot, and now, they're going to change the name to the Reform Party," said Michael Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party.
Conservative Party critics say there are already too many parties in New York State. Common Core got more than 51,000 votes last fall, meaning it automatically appears on the ballot in 2018. Astorino's team plans to file the paperwork next week with the state Board of Elections to change the party's name.
The dispute is similar to one Cuomo had during the campaign when he created the Women's Equality Party. That, too, got more than 50,000 votes, which means it will also be on the ballot in 2018.
"I remember that whole debate," Long said. " That was a direct hit, I think. He did it to effectuate for two reasons. One, to gather women's votes, and two, to hurt the Working Families Party."
In statement, a spokeswoman for Astorino said, "This will be a narrowly focused ballot line concentrating on clear initiatives, like repealing Common Core, state term limits, and other ethics reforms. County Executive Astorino has been in close touch with Chairman Long and others to keep them informed of the party's progress."
Supporters of Astorino said the goal here is to win more votes in New York City, where voters might be reluctant to vote for a Republican on either the Conservative or Republican line, but might be comfortable voting for Astorino on the Reform party line. Astorino lost the city vote but won the rest of the state by three points.