New York Gov. Cuomo's GOP rival accuses him of pandering to Latinos

Westchester County executive and GOP candidate Rob Astorino and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Westchester County executive and GOP candidate Rob Astorino and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is going to visit Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before the Nov. 4 election as a sign of respect to state residents who have roots in the two places.

But his Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, says the governor’s plans amount to pandering to Latinos.

Astorino sent out an email this week describing Cuomo’s plans to visit both places as a “panic and pander tour” and an "insulting attempt to make [Cuomo] seem engaged in Hispanic affairs."

Cuomo told reporters over the weekend that he planned to go to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and meet with officials there, according to published reports.

On Monday, at the Columbus Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, he said to the press: "I would like to get there before Election Day as a sign of respect to those two communities that I've worked with for a very long time."

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In New York, Puerto Ricans are the largest Hispanic group, making up about a third of the state’s Latino population, according to Pew Research Center. In the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are the dominant Hispanic origin groups. 

New York is home to about 50 percent of the roughly 1.5 million Dominicans who live in the United States, according to Pew.

About half of the Dominicans living in New York are eligible to vote, the New York Times reported earlier this year.

And Puerto Ricans, of course, are U.S. citizens by birth.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. responded to Astorino’s criticism of Cuomo’s travel plans on behalf of the Cuomo campaign saying, according to Newsday, that "the millions of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York State always appreciate the governor's visits to our ancestral homes."

"The more we examine Rob Astorino's record,” Diaz added, “the easier it is to see that his conservative policies would be dangerous not just to Latinos, but all New Yorkers."

Astorino's criticism, to be sure, does not mean the Republican is not pursuing Latino voters.

He has often used his fluency in Spanish to court them.

A Newsday article noted that Astorino, who, like Cuomo, is of Italian descent, has used his Spanish skills several times in bilingual speeches and Internet video addresses.

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