Chris Moss: The Sheriff Running for Lieutenant Governor

July 23, 2014 6:08 am Last Updated: July 22, 2014 5:41 pm

All recent polls taken on the November New York state governor’s election shows one-term incumbent Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo holding a daunting 30 percent-plus lead over his Republican/Conservative challenger, three-term Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

However, Chris Moss, the 46-year-old upstate Chemung County sheriff who last month received the Republican Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, placing him as Astorino’s running mate on the GOP ticket, discounts these polls and believes that the political world will be looking at a major upset in the Empire State this coming fall. 

In a recent interview an hour before a scheduled campaign event he was set to attend in Freeport on Long Island, Moss told me, “The polls are irrelevant today. The election season does not actually begin until after Labor Day. And then, once Rob Astorino begins to explain to voters how his record of success as Westchester County executive contrasts with Andrew Cuomo’s record of failure as governor of New York state, and begins to show how even Cuomo’s running mate disagrees with him on at least two critical issues, I believe the polls will change and despite what the pollsters are forecasting at this moment, New York state will have a new governor come January 2015.”

Moss was alluding to Kathleen Hochel, Cuomo’s own personal selection for running mate for lieutenant governor, replacing current Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who announced this past May that he would be leaving the ticket. A former member of Congress from upstate Erie County and a former Erie county clerk, Hochel had, as a congresswoman, won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA) based on her anti-gun-control voting record, and as county clerk, had been a strong opponent of then-Gov. Spitzer’s 2007 proposal to accord NYS driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. Such endorsements and positions have reportedly caused many in the powerful left wing of the Democratic Party to question why Cuomo, a supporter of pro-illegal-alien-leaning immigration reform and a fierce opponent of the NRA, picked her in the first place. 

Moss told me that he and Rob Astorino, unlike Cuomo and Hochul, share the same views on gun control, immigration, and other important state issues.

Gun-Related Crime

Referring to the Safe Act, a 2013 gun control law pushed by Gov. Cuomo and approved by state lawmakers, despite the NRA’s fierce opposition, Moss stated, “Mr. Astorino and I, unlike our opponents, see eye to eye on the Safe Act. We strongly oppose it.”

When I noted to Moss, the married father of an 8-year-old son and the current president of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, that according to recent polls the Safe Act has a 2-to-1 approval to disapproval rating among New York State voters, he responded “As a law enforcement official and a parent myself I have tremendous concerns about the gun-related violence that plagues our state. … If the Safe Act reduced that gun violence to any degree, and saved one innocent life, I would support it. But the reality is that it doesn’t. It will be our responsibility to explain this to voters.”

“Gun-related crime in New York State,” Moss continued, “has not been reduced here since the Safe Act was passed a year ago. And criminal justice studies show that the rates of gun-related crimes in other states that passed laws similar to the Safe Act, including Connecticut and California, have actually increased. This, I believe, is because laws like the Safe Act contain so many complicated provisions that the already-existing more practical guns laws become harder for police to enforce.”

Moss contended that he and Astorino had a more realistic and research-proven approach to address the problem of gun-related crime.

“We will seek common sense legislation that will increase the penalties for those convicted of committing a crime with the use of a weapon, and we will appoint judges who will apply that law,” he told me. “As a law enforcement official, I have reviewed numerous studies on the subject of guns and crime. These studies have proven that increasing penalties for offenders is the most effective way to reduce gun and weapon related crime.”

Immigration Issues

Concerning his position on immigration reform coinciding with Astorino’s Moss said, “We both agree that on the federal level, at which a governor is indirectly involved, a nation must control its own borders and enforce its immigration laws. Failure to do so places a tremendous burden on the state, as we see in the immigration crisis that now confronts Texas. … On a state level, Rob and I agree, as just one example of correctly denying benefits to those who have broken the law to get here, with Ms. Hochul’s past decision not to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.”

Asked if he was aware that polls show a majority of New Yorkers favor some form of immigration reform, Moss responded, “I am. But the questions posed in these polls do not ask the nature of the reforms the responders might have actually wanted. They do not, for example, refer to the awful circumstances prevalent in Texas right now. I believe that the majority of New Yorkers, like most Americans, want reforms that will offer rewards and incentives for those immigrants who have come here legally and penalize those who have not.”

Taxes and Jobs

Moss promised that the above two of what he described as “issues pivotal to the success of our campaign” will continue to be thoroughly addressed as the race moves forward. However, he added, the campaign will place much of its focus upon the state economy, which, he contended, is in dismal condition, and on the fight to end the Common Core State Standards (aka Common Core), a federal education program requiring that participating states, of which New York is one of 45, follow a standardized curriculum and adhere to federally mandated measurements on standardized exams for students in every grade.

Discussing the economy first, Moss stated, “New Yorkers pay the highest rate of taxes in the nation. These taxes, which continue to increase under Cuomo, have unfairly burdened the middle class, hurt businesses, deterred new capital investments, and consequently prevented job growth. Reducing this tax burden throughout the state, as Rob Astorino has demonstrated in Westchester, would benefit the middle class, stimulate the economy, and create tens of thousands of new badly needed private sector jobs from NYC to Buffalo. 

“Thousands of new private sector jobs,” he added, “could also be created through beginning hydro-fracking in the upstate region. … In addition, hydro-fracking would lower the currently burdensome energy costs imposed upon homeowners and businesses. Even President Obama has endorsed it. Why has Gov. Cuomo been holding it back the past four years?”

‘Stop Common Core’

Moss was no less critical and questioning of the governor’s policy on Common Core, asserting, “Common Core takes educational policy out of the hands of teachers, administrators, and parents and places it under the control of federal bureaucrats who possess little understanding of how education works on a local level. … According to a preponderance of educational research, Common Core’s emphasis on high stakes testing alongside its one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum is destructive to the learning process of students in all grades. Why was the governor at first a supporter of Common Core? And why does he continue to refuse to remove New York State from participating in it, instead creating a committee to study it? … Rob Astorino and I will not need any further committees. If elected, we will immediately rescind New York State’s participation in Common Core.”

Such tough talk from Moss about Common Core comes on the heels of Rob Astorino’s recent announcement that he is in the process of establishing a third-party ballot line under the name “Stop Common Core.” It is believed by both Democratic and Republican insiders that the Astorino campaign will find it an easy chore to collect the 15,000 signatures required to appear on that line and gather the 30,000 additional signatures needed to overcome an expected Cuomo challenge. 

Securing this Stop Common Core ballot line, Moss predicted, would play an important role in making this a winnable race for his ticket. “Campaigning throughout the state,” he said, “I have spoken with many voters who told me they were registered Democrats, not normally inclined to vote for Republicans, but now are looking for a way to show their displeasure with Cuomo over Common Core. The Stop Common Core ballot line will provide them that way.”

If Moss were talking about a still-undetected major voter trend rather than just retelling a few anecdotes, there could be long lines of pollsters looking for new careers come this November. 

Robert Golomb ([email protected]) is a nationally published columnist.

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