COLONIE – With no shortage of Republican and Conservative insiders skeptical about billionaire Donald Trump’s seriousness about running for governor, Buffalo businessman Carl P. Paladino said Sunday he believes that “good things” are coming soon about Trump’s decision.
“I feel very solidly we’re going to hear good things from Donald Trump,” Paladino told a gathering of Conservative Party leaders Sunday at a hotel outside Albany.
Paladino suggested he had been among the skeptics. In a dinner last week with Trump, Paladino said, he put it to him bluntly.
“I had one question: Are you taking advantage of us or are you serious?” Paladino said he asked the businessman and TV show host, who has expressed interest in challenging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this fall.
Republicans have privately been saying that if Trump does not run, his period of pondering is making it harder for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino – who is considering his own campaign against Cuomo – to raise money and increase name recognition. Those two effects would only end up helping Cuomo, Republicans fear.
But Paladino said he came away from last week’s dinner, as well as conversations with Trump as recently as Saturday evening, convinced that the celebrity real estate developer is serious about a challenge to Cuomo.
Later, answering a question from someone in the audience with his own reservations about Trump’s real level of interest, Paladino urged people not to listen to the “liberal press” and Cuomo surrogates stirring things up because Trump “scares the … out of them.”
He called Trump, with all his money and name recognition and right-leaning positions on everything from gun control to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the one candidate who can “bring down this liberal bubble” in New York.
Trump is due in Buffalo on Friday to address the Erie County Republican Party.
Paladino told the Conservative gathering that Cuomo “emissaries” this past week have been personally reaching out to Trump to urge him not to run.
In a session later with a handful of reporters, Paladino declined to reveal the names of any such surrogates. Asked if Trump was feeling pressure not to run, he said, “Oh, sure, when you’re in business like that, obviously, a lot of businessmen who Cuomo deals with want to come and say something” to Trump.
Paladino said he is not asking Astorino, whom the chairman of the state Republican Party has been pushing as the GOP’s best shot at defeating Cuomo, to step aside to make way for Trump. The Manhattan billionaire has said he is not interested in running if there is a divided party that defers its decision on a candidate until after a potentially divisive primary.
Paladino, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2010, said the GOP should settle the matter at a convention this summer after Astorino – and, he hopes, Trump – tour the state and make their cases for their campaigns.
“He was very concerned about primaries,” Paladino said of his conversation with Trump. “He says, ‘If we don’t have a united party, it’s just the same stuff you went through,’ ” he quoted Trump as saying in reference to Paladino’s intraparty battle in 2010.
Paladino repeated his threat to seek the Conservative nomination for governor if Trump does not run and if Astorino does not denounce what he labels as the left-leaning and Cuomo-supportive ways of Republican Senate co-leader Dean G. Skelos, of Nassau County, and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, R-Canandaigua.
Paladino gave the small gathering Sunday afternoon what they wanted: attacks on Cuomo and lawmakers, especially Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, for passage of everything from the SAFE Act gun-control law to same-sex marriage rights. He accused Grisanti of “committing treachery” for telling party leaders he would oppose gay marriage rights before he was elected but then changing his mind in 2011.
The Buffalo businessman said the Conservatives should withhold endorsements of Senate Republicans who do not also “pledge” that they will work to oust Skelos, who addresses the Conservative Party annual meeting tonight.