Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, claimed today that he was booted from a prime seat at President Barack Obama’s Westchester event by a top aide to his rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Astorino–who said the Westchester county executive had been invited to attend the event as a guest of the White House–told reporters today that Mr. Astorino was supposed to have a front-row seat at the Tappan Zee Bridge speech, but that Larry Schwartz, a top aide to Mr. Cuomo, intervened, forcing Mr. Astornino to stand at the back of the event.
“When Rob was about to be seated up front Larry Schwartz intervened and had him moved to stand in the back,” the spokeswoman claimed via email after the event.
Mr. Astorino, who is running an uphill battle against Mr. Cuomo, told reporters at the event that he had initially headed to the front of the stage, assuming he would be seated with other elected officials in attendance, but was quickly ushered away.
“We were told we were not allowed the front row,” he said. “Now I understand why. This was a partisan rally. This was a Democratic event, not a real governmental substantive speech on infrastructure, so it makes sense why I’m standing in the back as opposed to the official head of state for Westchester County being upfront,” he said.
“All I know is we assumed we were siting up front with the other leaders and Ed Day, who’s the Rockland County Executive, and I were told there were no seats and we were sitting in the back,” he added. “We in fact, we walked up front because that’s where we thought we were going to be seated. And we were told, ‘No.'”
Still, Mr. Astorino didn’t appear to take the slight personally.
“Look, wherever they want,” he said when asked whether he was offended he didn’t have a seat in the front. “This is his rally, his event. I’m honored to be here. But the question was yesterday: Is this a governmental function or is this a political rally? And we assumed we weren’t invited because it was a political rally. And then yesterday we got the invitation late in the morning and we then assumed it was a government function. I guess we were wrong.”
During his remarks, Mr. Obama ripped into Congressional Republicans for standing in the way of new infrastructure spending, accusing the party of putting jobs at risk.
“I thought the campaign ended,” Mr. Astorino quipped when asked about the the speech.
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo disputed the Astorino camp’s claims.
“Larry Schwartz did not talk to the White House about the event and certainly not about seating,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo.
Updated with comment from Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman.