ALBANY – The State Legislature’s top Republican today said he believes Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will be the GOP’s nominee to run for governor this year and questioned whether developer Donald Trump was ever serious about seeking the governor’s mansion.
“I believe Rob will be the candidate,’’ Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said this morning in a Capitol hallway interview with reporters.
Skelos, accused by some conservatives of being too cozy with Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo the past three years, suggested the governor’s re-election will not be a cakewalk.
“I truly believe that in government and politics, everybody is vulnerable,’’ Skelos said when asked about Cuomo. He also said he has told both Astorino and Cuomo that he will be supporting the GOP nominee against Cuomo this fall.
Trump has offered up a political poison pill: he has said he will not run if Astorino seeks the GOP nomination.
“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).”
The New York Post reported this morning that state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said Astorino will run and that he expects to support the Westchester County Republican. The Conservative Party’s support has proven crucial for Republicans running statewide in New York.
With some exceptions – those who have been promoting a Trump campaign – GOP leaders are increasing their public backing of Astorino, who has been campaigning around the state and recently set up a gubernatorial campaign account to begin taking donations. Astorino has said he will announce his plans by the end of the month.
A Trump spokesman dismissed the comments by Skelos. “State Sen. Skelos’ comment is based upon nothing other than his personal opinion,’’ said Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special advisor to Trump.
“Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he would only run if the party were to unite. At present, Mr. Trump has verbal commitments from over 60 percent of the weighted vote of Republican leaders that should he elect to run they would support his candidacy,’’’ Cohen said.