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Donald Trump rallies Republicans, saying party can win New York
In the words of the infamous Donald Trump, upstate New York has been "abandoned," the state's gun control laws were a "catastrophe" and its pro-business television campaign is "egregious."
Those were some of the colorful adjectives Trump, a real estate tycoon and reality TV star, used at a Republican Party fundraiser Tuesday night in Syracuse.
Trump has flirted with a run for governor of New York for a few months, but his speech in front of more than 300 people was to raise money for the party, not announce a bid for governor. He did say that decision is coming soon.
"I think that it’s a state that could absolutely be won. And it’s so important, it could almost turn around the psyche of the country, if that happened," Trump said.
Trump reiterated that he'll only run to knock off Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- who has positive poll numbers and $33 million in his campaign account -- if the GOP unites behind him.
The party convention is in mid-May, but Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino declared his candidacy last week. Astorino lacks name recognition and funding, Trump said.
"Rob has got himself a big problem," he said.
“There’s a lot of posturing and a lot of talk going on right now," said Onondaga County Republican Party Chairmain Tom Dadey. "And I’ll make a prediction that the Republican Party will come out from that event unified, behind whomever our candidate for governor is.”
Trump, who also flirted with running for president against Barack Obama, criticized state Republicans who have openly endorsed Cuomo. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is on that list, though Trump didn't name names and Mahoney didn't attend the event.
Trump spoke for more than 30 minutes off the cuff, without notes or a speech. He often mentioned people in the crowd and made quips about his personal life or Syracuse University basketball.
"He was saying things that I’ve been saying for years," said Onondaga County Legislator Casey Jordan.
Trump said New York state's taxes are too high, which is driving people to leave New York state.
"When you’re presiding over a state that’s number one in the nation for losing population, which makes your tax situation worse. And when you’re presiding over a state that has the highest taxes, in most instances by far, then I think that’s a very bad soundbite," Trump said of what Cuomo will have to run for re-election on.
Trump also said drilling for natural gas, something Cuomo has delayed approving for several years, is the greatest thing upstate New York could do for its economy.
What Trump said and how he spoke was "refreshing," said Bob Andrews, the Syracuse Republican Party chairman.
Tickets to see Trump started at $100 with a $500 donation netting a photo with Trump. At the end of January, the Onondaga County GOP had only $3,747 in its account, according to state elections records.