Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino today urged celebrity billionaire Donald Trump to either run for governor or step aside, saying the focus should be on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and not an Republican Party battle.
The comments come as Astorino could announce as early as next week his intentions to seek the GOP nod to run against the Democratic governor.
“If Donald Trump wants to run, then run,” Astorino told reporters in Albany. “Nothing is stopping him. Just like whether he runs or not won’t stop me. I think a primary could be helpful. But what he shouldn’t be doing is firing at us and not at the governor.”
Astorino added: “This circus stuff has got to come to an end, and he’s got just say if he’s running or not.”
Trump has been critical of Astorino, saying the two-term executive has no chance against Cuomo. But despite calls from some Republican leaders that he run, Trump hasn’t committed to the race and has said he would only run if there is no GOP opponent.
On Twitter today, Trump wrote: “Internal polling shows that I would swamp @RobAstorino in a NY Republican primary 77% to 23%. But won’t run if party is not unified.”
Astorino laughed off Trump’s claims.
“That’s funny because our poll has it 98%-2% in favor of us,” Astorino said.
Astorino contended that potential donors do not think Trump is serious about a gubernatorial run. Trump in the past has contemplated runs for governor and president and never entered the races.
“Everyone we talked to in New York City or around the state doesn’t take him seriously, quite frankly,” Astorino continued. “And their support of me would be whether he’s running or not.”
Michael Caputo, a Republican political operative who has led the effort to recruit Trump, said Astorino was opening the door for Trump to criticize his political failings.
While he said Astorino would “make a great governor,” Caputo said the Westchester executive has no shot at defeating Cuomo in November and should allow Trump to run unopposed. Trump supporters have said Trump has enough support to easily win the GOP nomination at its convention in May.
“Nobody knew going into this that the ego that would be a problem is Rob Astorino’s,” Caputo said on WBEN-AM in Buffalo.
Astorino continued to be critical of Cuomo, particularly over the decision of Remington Arms to open a plant in Alabama and not in New York. The company, which has a major facility in the Mohawk Valley, made the decision in part because of New York’s gun-control laws, local leaders said. The Alabama plant will employ up to 2,000 people, the company said.
“Alabama is laughing at us and that in and of itself is not funny,” Astorino said.