Billionaire Donald Trump Isn't Ruling Out a Run for NY Governor

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By Joseph Spector

Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY Donald Trump spent more than two hours privately Wednesday with a group of Republican lawmakers and operatives who tried to entice him to run for governor next year.

The celebrity billionaire was floated as a potential challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year, but Trump quickly ruled it out. He didn't dismiss the overtures Wednesday, though, and a spokesman said the sides plan to meet again soon.

"He didn't make any commitments, and we didn't ask him to make any commitments," Assemblyman Bill Nojay R-Pittsford, Monroe County, who was among the dozen people in attendance. "We just wanted to have an open discussion about the state of New York politics."

Trump spokesman Michael Cohen confirmed the meeting, which was held on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, attended a portion of it.

"It was a very interesting meeting, and Mr. Trump has agreed to meet them again at a later date," said Cohen, who declined further comment.

Nojay earlier this year put out a memo to GOP leaders in hopes of trying to lure Trump to head the party's ticket in 2014.

Nojay has argued that the party needs a strong challenger to Cuomo in hopes of having any power in New York, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. Trump backers said they believe he could beat the Democratic governor, who is seeking a second term.

With Trump on the sidelines, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino has been touted as the party's best hope against Cuomo.

Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora, Erie County, said the meeting wasn't intended as a slight toward Astorino, but, "Mr. Trump is at a different level, we think." He said Trump spoke highly of Astorino.

DiPietro said he's pleased the group was able to make the case to Trump. Trump, he said, would bring name recognition and the bankroll to compete with Cuomo, who in July had $28 million in his campaign coffers -- the most of any governor in the country.

"We put it all out. It was our Hail Mary because we think he can win," DiPietro said. "We think he's the best candidate."

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox called Trump a "very astute observer of politics," who is "very effective in public relations" and "very good at using his name and getting things done."

But he warned against believing the notion that some Republicans' interest in Trump is in any way an indictment of Astorino.

Cox has talked up Astorino as a rising star. Astorino said last month that he wouldn't make any decision until early next year.

"This is just some people want to talk to Donald Trump, and that's fine," Cox said on public radio's "The Capitol Pressroom." He called Astorino "a very special political leader."

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