- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has picked a former rival of his Republican opponent to serve on New York’s Board of Elections, a watchdog group that will play a vital role in the fall elections.

Andrew Spano was the longtime Westchester County executive until he was ousted in 2009 by Republican Rob Astorino, the current county executive who is now challenging Cuomo in this fall’s gubernatorial election.

Cuomo announced the appointment Monday, saying Spano would “uphold New York state’s commitment to fair and responsible elections.”

The four-member, bipartisan board enforces election laws, oversees campaign finance rules and investigates election-related complaints.

Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud called on Spano to avoid playing political favorites in his new role on as a board member.

“We would certainly expect him to recuse himself on any matters that concern our campaign,” Proud said.

Spano, a Democrat, said that he would consider recusing himself if something concerning Astorino’s campaign comes up but that it would depend on the specific circumstances.

“If I was ever in a situation in which I felt compromised, if it was an obvious situation that causes people to question my reputation, I would do the right thing,” Spano told The Associated Press.

The four seats on the Board of Elections have traditionally been evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans, with appointees nominated by the two parties. State leaders recently agreed to establish a new independent enforcement officer at the agency later this year to investigate violations of campaign finance laws and establish new anti-bribery provisions.

Spano, a 77-year-old resident of Shrub Oak, served as executive in the wealthy county north of New York City from 1998 until his defeat in 2009. But he said that he doesn’t hold any grudges against Astorino and that the two men have a cordial relationship.

“We get along fine,” Spano said of his one-time political opponent. “I hope he loses, but you would expect that.”

The Board of Elections next meets April 30.

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