Gov. Andrew Cuomo is refusing to engage with his GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, in a verbal battle over a TV ad paid for by the Erie County Democratic Party that featured a family snapshot from which Astorino’s 11-year-old son, Sean, had been removed.

TWC News’ Bill Carey asked Cuomo about the photo flap during the governor’s appearance at the Inner Habor in Syracuse this morning, and the governor replied:

“I run the campaign that I believe should be run. They talk about the silliness of the political season. I’m not going to engage in that.”

“My campaign is relatively straightforward. I was hired four years ago by the peple of the state to be governor of the state. I’ve worked seven days a week in that job, and I believe my campaign is about saying to them: ‘This is what I’ve done; this is what I’ve accomplished. This is what I said I would do; this is what I actually performed. And letting them judge that performance…I’m not going to get into any political silliness.”

The ad in question ran in Western New York last week in advance of – and during – the Buffalo Bills home opener against the Miami Dolphins. Astorino is a life-long Fins fan, and the ad slammed him for that, while elevating Cuomo as a team player who has invested a lot of time (and state cash) in rebuilding the region’s beleaguered economy – an effort for which keeping the Bills in Buffalo is a key element.

The ad featured a photo of Astorino wearing a shirt the in Dolphins’ trademark turquoise and orange, but it lacked a few features from the original shot – including the team’s logo and Astorino’s son.

The Astorino campaign slammed Team Cuomo, (which, according to Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, collaborated on the creation of this ad) for doctoring the photo, and then upped the ante by releasing a video this morning of Sean Astorino telling the governor it “wasn’t very nice” of him to alter a photo of what was a treasured father-and-son moment.

UPDATE: Cuomo was again asked about the Astorino photo after an event this afternoon at SUNY New Paltz. According to CapTon’s Nick Reisman, the governor reiterated his “silliness” comments, but also went a step further, saying it would have been “illegal” for the Erie County Democrats to use the likeness of Sean Astorino without permission because he is a minor.

UPDATE2: The Erie County Democrats issued this statement: “It is illegal to use the image of a child in an ad without the parents’ permission – we simply followed the law.” And here’s a link to the law to which the party and Cuomo are referring.

Carey also asked Cuomo if he felt, given the outcome of last week’s primary, that he has made any mistakes.

“This reminds me of a conversation with one of my daughters that came back; we were going through her report card,” Cuomo said. “In life you always want to learn and improve. And what you can do better? And what can you do different? So, I think that is an ongoing process.”

“…I’m the first one to say we have more to do, and I’m not saying that in four years we have fixed everything. But I believe we have fundamentally changed the direction of the state in four years. I think the numbers show that.”