By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump told a group of more than 40 Republican leaders Friday that he would want a united party if he runs for governor.
Trump spent two hours behind closed doors with county GOP chairmen across New York and other party leaders as they encouraged him to run for governor this fall against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
Trump told the group that he would need to see the party unified behind him if he were to run, said spokesman Michael Cohen.
Presently, state GOP chairman Ed Cox is supporting Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who said he will make a decision within 60 days on whether to run for governor.
Trump said he would make a decision by the end of the month, Cohen said.
"The meeting was upbeat and positive with all those in attendance showing interest to support Mr. Trump should he elect to run," Cohen told Gannett's Albany Bureau.
"Mr. Trump concluded by stating that he would want to see a united Republican Party and would make a decision by the end of this month."
Trump told the Buffalo News that if he had the party's support, "I would do it, and I think I'd win."
The meeting was the second meeting at Trump's Manhattan offices with Republicans leaders. He first rejected the overtures, but then said he would consider it after the first meeting Dec. 4.
Republican leaders were also set to meet Friday with Cox in Manhattan. Astorino and Trump, meanwhile, met Thursday.
Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, said it's not a case of Astorino versus Trump.
"I think the Republican Party is actually in very good shape," said Nojay, who attended both meetings and has been a Trump booster. "If Donald Trump is the candidate, we have a strong candidate. Or if Rob Astorino is the candidate, we have a strong candidate. So either way, the Republicans are well positioned."
Trump has spoken highly of Astorino, but wrote on Twitter recently that the second-term county executive couldn't win against Cuomo, who has nearly $30 million his campaign coffers.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, said Astorino would be her first pick, citing his record in public office.
"We need to begin to start rallying around a candidate," she said. "I think Rob Astorino is dynamic. I think he would be a great governor."