ALBANY, N.Y. - Billionaire Donald Trump said Friday that he won't run for governor in New York, citing the inability of the Republican Party to unite around his potential candidacy.
"While I won't be running for Governor of New York State, a race I would have won, I have much bigger plans in mind - stay tuned, will happen!" Trump said Friday via Twitter.
It appeared increasingly unlikely in recent weeks that Trump was going to run for governor. He said he would need the GOP to clear the field of potential Republican challengers, and last week Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino entered the race to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"I have clearly stated that if the New York State Republican Party is able to unify, I would run for Governor and win. They can't unify - SAD!" Trump said earlier Friday on Twitter.
Trump initially dismissed calls last fall that he run against Cuomo, but he became interested in the race after a number of GOP officials tried to persuade him to consider it. They said his name recognition and money made him a viable challenger to Cuomo, who is seeking election to a second term in November.
Trump then did major fundraising events for local parties in Erie and Onondaga counties, fueling interest in a potential candidacy. The event near Syracuse was Tuesday, but he never committed to saying he would run for the seat.
Polls showed Cuomo with about a 40 percentage-point lead over Trump and Astorino.
Trump knocked Astorino and the Republican Party along the way, saying Astorino couldn't win and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox should rally the party around a Trump candidacy.
Astorino and Cox said Trump should go through the GOP process for the nomination like any other candidate.
Republicans haven't won a statewide seat in New York since 2002.
"The top leadership of the New York State Republican Party is totally dysfunctional - they haven't won a major election in many years," Trump wrote in another tweet Friday.
With Trump out, it appears the field is cleared for Astorino versus Cuomo in November. Carl Paladino, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate, said he may challenge Astorino.
Michael Caputo, a political consultant who was part of the Draft Trump movement, said on Buffalo radio that Trump apparently didn't see the benefit of going through the rigors of a difficult campaign.
"If he didn't want to sacrifice himself on the altar of a failed Republican Party, I can't blame him," Caputo said.
Spector reports for the Gannett Albany (N.Y.) Bureau