Billionaire Donald J. Trump told a Manhattan gathering of Republican county leaders from around the state Wednesday evening that he will accept a nomination from the party’s state convention in May – a change from earlier indications that he wanted to avoid any competition for the GOP nod.
But according to several party sources, Trump disappointed many of the more than 30 people at the meeting in his Fifth Avenue offices by declining to open a campaign account – for the moment at least – in the manner of intraparty rival Rob Astorino.
“He told us ‘I will accept the Republican endorsement if it’s delivered at the convention,’” said Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo, who attended the meeting.
That differs slightly from Trump’s statements of Jan. 31, when he indicated he had no desire to compete for delegate votes at the convention and would withdraw from the race if Astorino – the Westchester County executive – should even declare his candidacy.
In the meantime, Astorino has established a campaign account and received the de facto endorsement of state Conservative Chairman Michael R. Long, a key step since no Republican has won statewide office in New York without Conservative support since 1974.
The meeting was also attended by Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, who estimated almost 56 percent of the convention’s weighted vote was represented, with others unable to attend also expected to back Trump.
Langworthy also noted the change in Trump’s approach to the nomination as “a bit different,” but said the Manhattan real estate developer and TV celebrity’s desire for a unified party remains.
“No one thinks a primary is the right way to go to beat Andrew Cuomo,” he said. “But it was the first time I’ve heard him talk about a convention.”
Still, Lorigo noted he even brought along his notary stamp and paperwork for Trump to follow Astorino in demonstrating seriousness by establishing a fund-raising committee (even though Trump is expected to spend his own money on any potential race).
For the moment, Lorigo added, that step will not be taken.
The gathering of 28 GOP county leaders among those attending was considered unprecedented outside the parameters of a regularly scheduled convention or party meeting, Langworthy said.