As he moves closer to running against the Democratic governor, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino knows the uphill fight he would face, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported over the weekend.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has $33 million in his campaign account and represents a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one.
But Astorino was a big underdog in 2009 when he first won as county executive against longtime Democratic incumbent Andrew Spano. The county also has a large Democratic majority, and he won re-election handily in November.
“The perception was we couldn’t win. The same old stuff,” Astorino said of the 2009 race in an interview with Gannett.
“And we worked hard and we raised enough money to get our message out. We stayed focused on what mattered to people of Westchester, and it’s the same thing that we’ll do statewide if we run,” he said.
Astorino said he is unfazed by the attacks by Cuomo’s allies on his pro-life stance and a joke that Medicaid recipients could eat soup if dentures aren’t covered.
Astorino said voters are more focused on creating jobs, especially upstate. He said abortion is legal in New York, despite women’s groups seeking to strengthen the law.
“People want to hear about how you’re going to make their lives better,” Astorino said. “And we will do that by making this state more competitive again, putting it back in the winning column, instead of focusing on issues that are not going to help the average New Yorker improve themselves.”
Donald Trump has indicated he would likely run against Cuomo in November if the party unifies around him. Some said they are ready to do that.
Michael Caputo, a Buffalo-area GOP strategist who is part of the draft Trump effort, said Trump has increasingly talked about running for governor.
“He’s definitely more committed to it than he was when we first met in December,” Caputo said. “And I think if the Republican Party clears a path for him, he’s highly likely to get in.”
Astorino said he would likely decide his future by the end of the month, and any decision would be independent of Trump’s deliberations.
Bijoy Datta, chairman of Broome County GOP, said he’s been impressed with Astorino.
“He isn’t a declared candidate, but I would certainly love to see him run,” Datta said of Astorino. “He’s got a great record in Westchester County. He’s cut taxes and created jobs, and we need more of that across upstate New York.
Datta said he spoke with Trump, but is unsure whether he will run, citing his past talk of running for governor or president.