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Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is running for governor and has made his intentions known to New York’s Republican congressional delegation, State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox said Monday.

Astorino traveled to Buffalo on Dec. 18, where he met with Republican leaders and 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino, and has met with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and political donors, all signals that he is gearing up for a candidacy. But he has not publicly begun a campaign.

“Rob Astorino is running,” Cox said Monday during a meeting with The Buffalo News Editorial Board. “He’s told that to all six of our members of Congress.”

Paladino, a developer and member of the Buffalo Board of Education, on Monday reiterated his previous statement that if Astorino does not demand the removal of State Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos, of Nassau County, and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, R-Canandaigua, he will seek to run for governor on the Conservative Party line.

“I’ll back Astorino when Astornio comes out publicly and denounces Skelos and Kolb and demands their removal from office,” Paladino said. “I want Skelos and Kolb gone. I think Rob Astornino would be a great candidate.”

Paladino has criticized the state’s GOP establishment for being Republicans in name only, or RINOs,and for taking positions that he thinks are not conservative enough.

“If Astorino doesn’t take on the RINOs now, he’ll never take them on,” Paladino said.

Cox said it is not Astorino’s job to denounce Republicans in the State Legislature.

While Cox appeared bullish on Astorino’s chances, a Paladino candidacy could upset any chance Republicans might have of denying Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a second term in the November election.

If Paladino would draw more votes on the Conservative line than Astorino would on the Republican line, the GOP would be moved down to the third ballot position, which would have broad implications for the party, including the benefits for the state’s two major parties called for in state election law.

Cox said it is too early to speculate on the possibility that the Republicans could lose their ballot position after the 2014 race.

“I’ve got a good candidate,” one who is raising money, he said. “He’s got a good team around him.”

Cox said he is not discouraging Paladino from running, but his preference for Astorino was clear.

“He is running and he is our best candidate,” Cox said of Astorino. “Carl and I are very good friends going way back. He’s doing an exceptional job on the School Board.”

Cox said he last spoke with Paladino roughly six weeks ago.

As for Donald Trump, the businessman and television personality, Cox said that there is skepticism in the party about a potential gubernatorial run, something Cox has told him, he said.

“He would like to be a political leader, clearly,” Cox said.

Cox also criticized Cuomo’s policies and said the strength of the economy in November will go a long way in determining the governor’s electoral success.

email: jterreri@buffnews.com