ALBANY -- State Sen. Dean Skelos, the top elected Republican in New York, said Monday Rob Astorino likely will be the party's gubernatorial candidate and questioned whether developer Donald Trump ever was "totally serious" about running.

"I believe Rob will be the candidate," Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the Senate's co-leader, said about the Westchester County executive. Astorino has been inching closer to announcing his plans, saying he'll likely make a decision this month.

Skelos said Astorino, who just was re-elected in a heavily Democratic county, "will be an excellent candidate."

Skelos said he had "a lot of respect for Donald Trump. I don't know if he was totally serious about this. It's a huge task to run statewide for governor. He has his TV show. He has a lot of other things on his plate. I don't know whether he has time."

Asked if he thought Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was "vulnerable," Skelos said: "Everybody in politics is vulnerable. . . . You don't know how the issues will play out."

Skelos and Senate Republicans often have touted their ability to work with Cuomo over the past three years to achieve balanced budgets and keep spending relatively flat.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

But Skelos said, "I've indicated to Rob and I've indicated to the governor: I'm a Republican and I'm going to support the Republican nominee."

Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said Skelos' "comment is based on nothing more than his personal opinion. Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he would only run if the party were to unite [behind him]. At present, Mr. Trump has verbal commitments of over 60 percent of the weighted vote of [county-level] Republican leaders that, should he elect to run, they would support his candidacy."