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ALBANY – Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has gone deep into rural upstate to tap Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss to be his running mate in his bid to oust Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Moss is African-American, the first to be on a statewide ticket for the Republican Party in New York history. He is also an avid opponent of the NY SAFE Act and a sportsman, a sign that Astorino hopes to continue to use Cuomo’s push for the 2013 gun control law as an issue against him, especially with upstate voters.

“Sheriff Moss is among the best and brightest this state has to offer,’’ said Astorino, the Westchester County Executive who, with Moss, will become the party’s official nominees when delegates meet for the GOP convention beginning Wednesday in Westchester County.

Astorino, who made the announcement this afternoon via video message on his campaign web site, had discussed the position with a number of people who turned him down, including Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Erie County.

Because of Astorino’s his downstate address, political observers believe, he had little choice but to go upstate to find a lieutenant governor candidate. Cuomo has yet to announce who will run with him. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy last week announced he will not be on the ticket again with Cuomo.

Moss has been the county’s sheriff since 2005. He is president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and has been an outspoken critic of the NY SAFE Act, the gun control legislation passed last year.

According to his agency’s web site, Moss joined the sheriff’s office in 1989 and rose through the ranks until his election in 2005. He has handled everything from criminal investigations to road patrols and was a certified K-9 handler. He oversees a staff of 160 and an $11 million budget.

In a recent interview with the Elmira Star-Gazette, Moss said the SAFE Act has done nothing to make New York safer. He said he believes Cuomo “thought it would fade away in time.”

“It hasn’t done so yet … I think it really pits upstaters against downstaters,’’ he added.

While many political observers believe a gubernatorial running mate has limited impact on a statewide ticket, especially considering that most lieutenant governors become mere ceremonial speech-makers for their bosses, the choice of a conservative upstate African-American is an interesting one. Will it put more pressure on Cuomo, for instance, to select an African-American, such as Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, as his running mate? Will it make him push off the list any downstate Democrats who he might still be considering?

“What Sheriff Moss most brings is a reformer’s passion in a state in desperate need of reform – ethically, educationally and economically,’’ Astorino said, adding Moss will be making his first comments at the party’s convention on Thursday.

“I wanted an Albany outsider … and I got one,’’ Astorino added.

Moss, who also is a board member of the New York State Association of Counties, is 46 and was born and raised in Chemung County. His parents owned a local restaurant. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College. His wife works for Corning Inc. and the couple has an eight-year-old son.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com