ALBANY – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is expected to make it official today that he is jumping into the race to try to oust Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The 46-year-old Republican, who has won two terms in a county where Democrats have a heavy advantage in voter enrollment, said Tuesday on his Twitter account that he is “announcing decision on whether to run for governor of NY in video news release Wednesday.”’
Giving further proof that the worst-kept secret in state politics is that Astorino will run for governor, the Republican is due to be in Buffalo on Thursday as part of a swing through the state, according to sources close to the campaign. Cuomo lost all of Western New York to Buffalo businessman Carl P. Paladino in his 2010 campaign, and the region will be among the battlegrounds in this fall’s election.
Astorino has been traveling the state and meeting with GOP leaders to tout his potential candidacy, and Republicans and Democrats expect he would not be pumping up his publicity operation if he were going to decide against running.
Once he’s in, a couple of key questions remain.
First, does billionaire Donald J. Trump, who has been flirting with a possible GOP run himself, officially bow out of contention? Trump has said he would run only if Republicans give him a clear field without any primary challengers.
While a growing number of Republicans appear to be losing faith that Trump has any interest in running for governor, his supporters say Trump brings name recognition, money and a nonpolitician’s ideas to the table.
Asked whether Trump will be ending his exploratory bid now that Astorino is expected to announce his intentions to run, Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president at the Trump Organization, said: “Rob Astorino’s announcement will do little to curb the vast movement by the majority of GOP leaders who all are committed to a Donald Trump candidacy. Their belief is that only Donald Trump has the ability to win the gubernatorial race and defeat Cuomo.”
The second major question for Astorino is whether Paladino will start a real move to try to run for governor just on the Conservative Party line. Paladino has threatened to disrupt the GOP if it does not nominate someone he considers a true conservative with a chance against Cuomo.
Paladino, who lost badly to Cuomo four years ago, has praised Astorino but also has criticized him for not denouncing what Paladino considers left-leaning leadership by Republicans in the State Legislature.
Astorino would face a tough battle against Cuomo. The governor already has in excess of $33 million in his re-election campaign account, and the state has 5.4 million enrolled Democrats, compared with 2.6 million Republicans. The tiny but influential Conservative Party has 154,000 members, while 2.4 million New Yorkers are not enrolled in any party.