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ALBANY _ Republican Rob Astorino on Wednesday slammed Donald Trump as running a circus in his latest flirtation with a run for governor
Astorino and Trump now each claim support from a majority of Republican county chairmen statewide who could pick a nominee to run against Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
But Republican leaders are now torn between the celebrity of Trump in his latest potential self-funded political run, and the Westchester County executive whose fundraising could be hurt by a divided GOP field.
Astorino had so far withheld criticism of Trump. That ended Wednesday.
“This circus stuff has got to come to an end and he’s got to be say if he’s running or not,” said Astorino, who also hasn’t yet announced if he will run.
“Everyone we talked to in New York City and around the state doesn’t take him seriously, quite frankly,” Astorino said in Albany after meeting privately with Senate Republicans.
Astorino dismissed Trump’s supporters who contend internal polls show the billionaire developer would beat Astorino.
“Show it!” Astorino said. “C’mon, that’s kind of silly stuff. If Donald Trump wants to run, then run. Nothing is stopping him. Just like whether he runs or not won’t stop me. I think a primary could be helpful.”
Public polls have shown Trump with far greater name recognition, but also high disapproval ratings. The polls show Cuomo would crush either of them at this point.
“The Trump draft is on schedule with a hard count of more than 60 percent of the weighted vote and climbing,” said Michael Caputo, a spokesman for the Trump effort. He claims state Republican County Chairman Ed Cox is engaged in “cynical back-room manipulations” for Astorino.
“While Donald Trump has locked up a supermajority of chair support, Cox can’t get Rob Astorino out of single digits,” Caputo said.
Trump has met with county GOP chairman at sold-out events in Buffalo and in Manhattan. He has said he will only run if the party unifies behind him, and said Astorino can’t beat Cuomo.
Astorino claimed a “healthy majority of Republican support.” He also has courted Conservative Party support, which is critical to Republicans running statewide in New York where Democrats have about a 2:1 enrollment advantage.
“It’s a bottom-up process,” said David Laska, spokesman for the state Republican Party and Cox. “All of our county chairs have been taking it upon themselves to meet with both of our respective candidates.”
The Republican convention in which a nominee will be chosen is May 14-15, but Trump’s continued interest in the race could hurt Astorino’s ability to raise campaign funds.