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NEW YORK (CBS Local) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has worked to portray himself as a major opponent to President Donald Trump, offered a controversial alternative to the president’s famous campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” at a bill signing on Wednesday.

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“We are not going to make America great again. It was never that great,” he said. The audience, which was there to watch Cuomo sign a bill to make sex trafficking a felony in the state, reacted with audible gasps as well as some cheers. The governor was attempting to make a larger point about women’s equality, but the context was lost with the shocked reaction to his first sentence.

“We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women – 51 percent our our population – is gone, and every woman’s reach full potential is realized and unleashed,” Cuomo added.

The governor, a Democrat, is currently seeking re-election for his third term. Cuomo’s Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro, almost immediately released a statement condemning Cuomo’s words.

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“America, with its imperfections, has always been great,” Molinaro said. “Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Cuomo is also facing a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, an education activist and former “Sex And The City” star. Nixon has staked a position far to the left of Cuomo, supporting such policies as Medicare-for-All, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and legalizing recreational marijuana. Cuomo has shifted to the left in his rhetoric and policies in recent months, including softened language about legalizing recreational marijuana.

Cuomo, who is considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate, is a vocal critic of President Trump, and the state has sued the administration several times.

Mr. Trump claimed at a private fundraiser for New York Rep. Claudia Tenney on Monday that Cuomo had said he would not run against him. The president then goaded Cuomo to run, warning that “anybody that runs against Trump suffers.”

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[H/T CBS News]