In 2014, Rob Astorino was the heir apparent for the New York Republican Committee to take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He had won a second term after unseating Democratic incumbent Andrew Spano in the Westchester County executive's office and was widely seen as a rising star for the party. No primary was necessary at the state GOP convention that year.
Now, as Astorino makes his second bid for governor, he's doing so as a candidate who does not have the lion's share of backing from Republican leaders and elected officials across the state, who have lined up to back rival candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Still, Astorino, is planning to take his case directly to Republican primary voters, who will begin casting ballots a year from now.
"The establishment kind of made their pick before I event got into the race," Astorino said Wednesday morning in Albany. "The primary is next year; the convention is next year."
Zeldin, a member of Congress who represents eastern Long Island, has been the rabbit of the race so far. He launched his bid in April, more than a year before voting begins, and has touted endorsements from a cross section of Republicans in elected office as well as from GOP and Conservative Party leaders on the local level.
Astorino, Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani are seeking the GOP nod.
Zeldin last week told reporters the party needs an early start given the vast advantages Democrats hold in deep blue New York. But Astorino, who was unseated by Democrat George Latimer in the county executive's race in 2017, indicated he's prepared for a marathon.
"This still is a very long process and the three million Republican voters are going to determine who their most electable candidate is going to be," he said. "We are all good Republicans and no matter who is in it -- deserve to be heard and respected. This is a long process. I am confident that I at the end we will and a primary is a good thing. It's not like we're taking on an incumbent of our party. This is an open field, this is an open race."
Republicans are shut out of power statewide in New York. They hope a mix of controversy and scandal engulfing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a three-term Democrat, could give them an edge in 2022. Nevertheless, the sheer voter enrollment numbers for Republicans are considered a clear challenge.