Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said today there was a 50 percent chance he would challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo later this year, contradicting claims from the state Republican chairman that he was definitely running.
Mr. Astorino, who has been held up as Republicans’ best hope for unseating Mr. Cuomo, said he was meeting with fund-raisers and would decide whether to take the plunge against Mr. Cuomo by the end of February.
“I would say 50-50. Look, this is a gigantic step,” Mr. Astorino told Albany radio host and New York Post columnist Fred Dicker. “Any time you challenge an incumbent … it is always an uphill battle and you have to give a reason why the state, in this case, should change horses.”
During a recent editorial meeting with The Buffalo News, State GOP Chairman Ed Cox reportedly stated that Mr. Astorino “is running” and had told the state’s Republican congressional delegation that he would indeed be taking on Mr. Cuomo.
But today, Mr. Astorino walked back Mr. Cox’s statements, telling Mr. Dicker that his discussions with the GOP delegation were “confidential,” though he did elaborate on why he’s “really considering a run.”
“If I were not to run, I would want the party to be able find a good qualified candidate. I want people to be able to step forward. And if I am going to run, I want enough time to get things going,” Mr. Astorino explained. “So what I am saying is, this is not going to be a long, drawn-out process but we’re certainly not there yet. I’m talking to people around the state as I should be.”
Still, Mr. Astorino was willing to play the role, attacking the governor on various fronts.
“It seems like Santa Claus made a U-turn and he’s back and he’s got everything for everybody,” Mr. Astorino said of Mr. Cuomo’s upcoming State of the State address tomorrow. “I think that is what has gotten this state in the mess we’re in. Just sorta saying yes to everyone, being poll-driven and, ‘What’s popular, I’m gonna go with that, that’ll get me through the election.'”
Mr. Astorino further slammed Mr. Cuomo for being another government insider.
“He’s basically had 20 years in office up here. Twelve under his father, attorney general and governor. And what has changed? We’ve been more corrupt, we’ve lost more people, we’re the highest taxes, and we’ve gotten worse in business climate, from 49th to 50th,” he said, laughing. “Tell me what has changed other than it’s gotten worse.”
If he challenges Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Astorino would be the heavy underdog. In addition to boasting much higher name recognition statewide and relatively strong approval ratings, Mr. Cuomo already has a $30 million campaign war chest.