Key Republican leaders from around the state will try once again Wednesday to persuade billionaire Donald J. Trump to run for governor this year despite two significant boosts Monday for GOP rival Rob Astorino.
During the Manhattan meeting set for Trump’s Fifth Avenue office, Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said he and others will attempt to determine Trump’s intentions. Others connected with the process say they will present the real estate mogul and television celebrity with hard data showing enough support to at least ensure the endorsement of the Republican State Convention in May.
“Is he going to take a definitive step to get into the race?” Langworthy said. “When we get a bunch of chairs in the room Wednesday we’ll see what he says.”
But new questions surround Trump’s potential candidacy after State Conservative Chairman Michael R. Long told the New York Post on Monday that he is “ready” to back Astorino, the Westchester County executive, whom he says is the “right candidate for this race.”
State Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos followed Monday in Albany with his own statement of support for Astorino, telling Capitol reporters that he believes the county executive will be the candidate to challenge Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this year.
“I have a lot of respect for Donald Trump. I don’t know whether he was totally serious about this. I know a number of people feel he is,” Skelos said. “But it’s a huge task to run statewide for governor. He has his TV shows. He has a lot of other things on his plate. I don’t know how he could devote the time (to run).”
Both expressions of support for Astorino are significant because Trump has said he will not run if he encounters any opposition for the right to face Cuomo, and no Republican candidate since 1974 has won statewide without Conservative support.
Still, Trump continues to win supporters. Orleans County Republican Chairman Edward Morgan is expected to join the Wednesday session in New York, while Assemblyman Bill Reilich, the Monroe County GOP chairman, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle over the weekend that he will support Trump should he decide to run.
It all leads some supporters to claim that Trump will not have to worry about a primary if he continues to rack up support from key county organizations.
Meanwhile, 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino said the latest statements all aim to force Trump to make a quick decision. Paladino has said he will attempt to run on the Conservative line should Trump bow out, even though Long controls the authorization process that would allow a non-Conservative to appear on the line.
Paladino also emphasized Monday that the county organizations eventually will control the process no matter what Astorino or others decide.
“There are people working very hard to put together the final pieces,” he said. “In the end, it’s the weighted vote of the state committee that chooses.”
Paladino reiterated that he likes Astorino but doubts he can build the name recognition and financial means to successfully challenge Cuomo in the same manner as Trump.
A Trump spokesman dismissed Skelos’ comments. “State Sen. Skelos’ comment is based upon nothing other than his personal opinion,” said Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special adviser to Trump.