The 14-month-long campaign for governor of New York by Lee Zeldin was shaped by his affiliations.
Due to his votes as an Albany state senator, his Republican primary opponents claim that he was actually former Democratic Governor Andrew “Cuomo’s favourite Republican” and that he wasn’t consistently close enough.
Zeldin and state party officials assert that he is poised to win the four-way Republican primary on Tuesday, but it is possible that his affiliations with one or both of New York’s recently scandal-scarred sons will have little or no bearing on the outcome.
In an interview, the four-term congressman dismissed a recent Siena College poll that indicated Republicans preferred Andrew Giuliani over him. Giuliani is the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a former Trump aide. He has never run for office and has less than $300,000 in his campaign account.
According to Zeldin, if he didn’t have a clear plan for winning on election day, he wouldn’t have entered the campaign at all.
“My team and I had already prepared from victory backwards when we got to the stage where I was announcing on April 8, 2021,” he claimed. “We have elements of the campaign plan for November 7 and November 8 of 2022.”
Despite the fact that the situation has changed, Zeldin asserts that his playbook hasn’t changed much: Few anticipated a four-way primary, which now includes Giuliani, businessman Harry Wilson, and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, after a staggering 85% of the local party leadership chose Zeldin as their candidate in June.
“We considered this race from 100,000 various angles, and it appears in our TV advertisements. During rallies, I’ve expressed it,” Zeldin added. “Even if I don’t publicly state it, I personally believe that I am all in and that giving up on this race is not an option. The only choice, in my opinion, is for us to win this race, and as each day passes, my confidence in the strategy grows.
The Pre-Trump Era
Zeldin’s early campaign headlines last year were mostly eclipsed by the Cuomo squabble and a fast transfer of power. The moment Zeldin took to the House floor following the Capitol revolt on January 6, 2021, to protest the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election, it was clear that he would become the presumptive GOP candidate for governor.
While Zeldin’s revelation was not entirely unexpected, some of the other declarations that day were striking. During the Trump administration, he was a constant source of encouragement for the outgoing leader, swiftly endorsing him as the Republican nominee in 2016, defending his remarks about the violence in Charlottesville in 2017 by saying that “both sides” were to blame, and emerging as one of the most outspoken opponents of the impeachment investigation in Congress.
Long before Trump became the standard for the Republican Party, Zeldin had a successful political career. Zeldin, now 42, claimed he joined the William Floyd High School Youth in Government club sometime around the 10th grade for motives that were initially comparable to those for which he joined the chorus despite having no natural singing ability. “I engaged in both to attract women.”
He quickly developed a sincere interest in the legislative process, which may have been detrimental to his initial objective. He then interned in the office of former state senator Ken LaValle and rose to the position of president of the College Republicans at SUNY Albany. At the young age of 23, he graduated from Albany Law School, but he said that his first journey into politics had already turned him off.
His response was to join the Army. He was in the military for four years, serving in Iraq in the summer of 2006. After his twin girls were born prematurely with a number of health issues that at times put their lives in danger, he switched to reserve duty in 2007.
He said, “Something went off inside.” I made the decision to run for Congress. I knew I would be able to survive in politics and be true to who I am because of the seven years of life experience, reading, reflecting, studying leadership, and serving in the military.
In 2010 he won a seat in the state senate, and in 2014 he won a seat in Congress. He gained support in the delegation and quickly established himself as an enthusiastic voice on international issues, fueling allegations that he had a higher position in mind. But he says that until Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar urged him to meet at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., in January 2020, a race for governor wasn’t even on his radar.
According to Kassar in an interview, Zeldin was shocked when he first proposed the suggestion but vowed to take it into consideration after being re-elected to the House later that year. After Election Day, he came back to Kassar with his prepared strategy.
Conservative party county leaders rapidly joined up with Republicans to support his campaign in an effort to form an early and unified front to retake the White House. At the GOP convention in March, he clinched the nomination with ease.
Kassar has faith in Zeldin’s outreach since then, both nationally and locally within his Long Island home base, a crucial battleground. Kassar is doubtful that recent polling of registered voters accurately predicts who will actually vote — and how — in what is likely to be a low participation primary on Tuesday. Almost the entire GOP party machinery is working on Zeldin’s side.
Kassar asserted, “I’m clearly not picking up for the Conservative Party that we are in any danger of losing our candidate.
As the contenders criticised one another throughout the contentious GOP primary, Kassar claimed that it had become “a distraction” and had depleted funding. Compared to prior years’ Republican contenders for governor, Zeldin has more funding and a bigger national fundraising network. Although Hochul’s over $13 million is currently on the lower end of her reported balances due to a rush of pre-primary spending, if he wins the primary, the roughly $2 million he currently has in the bank would be no match for it.
The challenge, according to Kassar, is that for Lee to win, she will need to raise an additional $14, $15, or $16 million. I still think he can, though.
With an eye on November
Winning the primary would not only require financial resources, but also the challenging challenge of mobilising the entire state GOP base, along with some Democrats and independent voters, to support him in the general election this fall.
Zeldin certainly appeals to the conservative Republican base with stirring proclamations in favour of gun ownership, his pledge to repeal Covid-era regulations, and his hatred for the New York bail system, which he believes permits “criminals to commit crimes and be home for supper.” His pro-abortion rights viewpoint is based on the fact that his girls were born as one-pound babies and survived despite physicians’ advice to “let them go.”
He stated on Tuesday at one of three recent primary debates, “They’re finishing 10th grade, they’re turning 16, they’re in honours classes receiving better marks I got when I was their age.” Thank God they were born with the capacity to live and prosper.
Zeldin has been the aggressor in the debates. He has called his rival Harry Wilson a “Never-Trumper” for nominating former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley for president in 2020 as opposed to Trump. Like Trump, he has given his opponents fictitious names and enjoys poking them, pointing out that “Rolex Rob” Astorino has lost three elections in a row and that Andrew Giuliani was made fun of on Saturday Night Live when he was a young boy sitting by his father.
He is prepared to address his reservations when asked about the 2020 elections, but his position is neither straightforward nor obvious. Zeldin at the time cited “evidence-filled difficulties” with the way officials in several states handled the elections. Zeldin’s explanation of the vote today questioned alterations made to election management during the epidemic era by non-state legislative players, notably in Pennsylvania and Arizona.
He responded that he saw the ongoing conspiracies as existing in a kind of middle ground between two extremes when asked if he was now satisfied with the findings after legal inquiries into fraud found no evidence to support the claims.
He claimed that it wasn’t the first flawless election in the nation’s history to be free of all fraud. Additionally, it wasn’t an election in which any claim made by an anonymous person on their social media profile was correctly pronounced to be factual.
Although Joe Biden has claimed to be president, it hasn’t always been simple to acknowledge his office.
Although Giuliani has been backed by Trump’s allies and attended a fundraiser on Trump’s golf course in New Jersey, Zeldin hasn’t received an endorsement from the former president he’s long supported, and it’s still unclear if Trump will officially weigh in on the primary.
Zeldin said he didn’t want to say anything that might be taken to mean that he was speaking for Trump when he was asked if he anticipated Trump to support.
In the end, it’s possible that the lack of a Trump endorsement will help him win the general election by attracting anti-Trump supporters who wouldn’t otherwise support a Democrat. However, New York City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, a fervent Zeldin backer, speculated that a Republican campaign this November might not focus as much on the former president as many anticipate.
He asserted that this year’s party messaging, which encourages a focus on crime and the economy, is particularly important.
Borelli stated, “He’s a Republican running in a historically Democratic state. “However, we’ve seen that when there are bigger issues at risk, individuals will essentially vote against their party lines.”
Attempting to sway New York voters
Zeldin appears eager to increase his support among more people. When asked in the interview if he had ever considered running for governor, he chose to praise Hillary Clinton, who as a senator had a reputation among members of both parties for showing up to every event, no matter how small, well prepared and engaged, he said.
There are many things about Hillary Clinton that I strongly disagree with, but Zeldin pointed up one item that caught his attention when she was elected as the senator for New York. She “was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that was to be the best U.S. senator she could be at the time.”
Zeldin declared, “I don’t agree with Bernie Sanders on what seems like anything.” The fact that he genuinely believes in the cause he is pursuing, though, is something I appreciate.
According to Giuliani, who referred to himself as “the only person on this stage that always supported President Donald J. Trump and didn’t call them other types of things” on Tuesday night, that sort of speech doesn’t align with how Republican allegiances should appear.
During the discussion, Giuliani referred to Zeldin as “unfortunately, he’s going to flip and flop.” “Before you were against Trump, you were with him. Before that, you were opposed to him. You can’t even get it straight, and I can’t even tell.”
After the debate, Newsmax host Eric Bolling posed the following question to the candidates: “How would you identify yourself politically, on a scale from, Pence to Trump?”
Both the Rochester audience and some of the contenders laughed in response to the question. Wilson identified as “an overall conservative with limited government.” Astorino said that he “was on CNN for two and a half years defending Donald Trump.” Giuliani simply echoed both Trump’s and his own last name.
Zeldin did not speak the surnames of either person.
He said, “It’s crucial to always be my own man, regardless of the two names you mentioned.
Zeldin got Pence’s support the next day.