Running for governor as a Republican in New York may seem an arduous task. George Pataki, who left office in 2006, was the last one to be elected to the position. Albany is also completely governed by Democrats, as is Washington, D.C. However, Rep. Lee Zeldin, who was first elected to represent New York’s 1st District in 2014, is not deterred, as he discussed with Townhall. “You could argue,” Rep. Zeldin said, “that the alignment has never been better in my entire life,” to win the race for governor. He first announced his run on April 8.
On Monday, census data revealed that New York lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The embattled sitting governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, is looking to take legal action to keep that seat. The state lost it by only 89 people, though it might be a longshot. Rep. Zeldin, though, has a much different take on it.
When we were discussing how New York can recover, including from COVID and from Gov. Cuomo, Rep. Zeldin noted that “it’s not too late to restore New York to glory,” as “people are hungry for this campaign” and “are talking about it like it’s the last stand.” He was optimistic in how New Yorkers are recognizing “they have an opportunity” for “balance in Albany.”
This includes a correction course from policies as well. “We are campaigning against Andrew Cuomo and against the failed policies coming out of Albany,” which are “related to the breaking point so many New Yorkers are getting to,” such as high cost of living, education, and corruption, and “scandals related to the governor.”
Rep. Zeldin also aims to focus on taxes, controlling spending, businesses, fixing the cashless bail system, supporting law enforcement, and election integrity, which includes voter ID. He spoke to these as “many different initiatives on many different fronts that have widespread support among everyday New Yorkers.” Zeldin spoke to the importance of making sure the proposals “coming out of Albany pass the basic smell test instead of absurd policies,” particularly from when the pandemic started.
Perhaps most simply put, though, is “the issues that matter the most to New Yorkers are on our side, and not on the Democrats’.”
In addition to the various campaign issues, Rep. Zeldin says it will be “important to... reverse this decline that Andrew Cuomo and the Democrats are responsible for.”
Since Gov. Pataki has left office, New Yorkers have elected Democrats Eliot Spitzer--who was replaced by his Lieutenant Governor David Paterson--and Gov. Cuomo. The sitting governor has served since 2011, and, should he run again, could be serving a fourth term. Rep. Zeldin supports term limits, and doesn't believe Gov. Cuomo should even have that chance.
In addition to the wins the party out of power historically faces--with 2002 being an exception, when Republicans held onto their majority in the House--Rep. Zeldin pointed out that the races for governor are much different than they were in 2006 and 2010. “The Democratic Party is not running an unbeatable candidate like they have the past several times out,” he shared. Those races were “perceived to be at a different stratosphere with name ID and favorability, and that is very much not the case anymore today.”
Not only have the Democrats won since 2006, they’ve won big. Gov. Spitzer was elected with 69 percent of the vote in 2006, the largest margin for a New York gubernatorial race. Gov. Cuomo has been elected with 62.6 percent, 54 percent, and 59.6 percent of the vote.
Zeldin is not only optimistic in his race; he is practical as well. While he agreed that “we have to go up from here,” he also pointed out that “we can’t be complacent,” due to part of the Democratic Party with “outside influence” with “self-described socialists” who “have many ideas to make things worse.”
Rep. Zeldin enthusiastically shared how the campaign is getting an early start; they’ve already done three state-wide tours. They’ve also raised $2.5 million in ten days of fundraising, and he says they “feel great about momentum.”
On Monday, Kerry Picket with the Washington Examiner reported that the congressman had 37 percent of endorsements from the NYS GOP and 35 percent from the state’s Conservative Party. Picket noted “Zeldin needs to surpass 50% at both parties nominating conventions next year to become the officially endorsed gubernatorial candidate of each.”
During the conversation, Rep. Zeldin shared with Townhall that he is at 40 percent of the NYS GOP weighted vote endorsing his campaign, and 44 percent of the state's Conservative Party. Endorsements are also regularly shared to his campaign website and over social media, with the recent ones ncluding the Herkimer County Republican Party and the Nassau County Conservative Party.
? ENDORSEMENT ALERT: The Herkimer County Republican Party just endorsed my campaign for Governor! That brings us up to 40% of the New York Republican Party weighted vote publicly endorsing our campaign for Governor. About to pass 50%+. Stay tuned... pic.twitter.com/QLFQjPmVtM— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) April 27, 2021
? ENDORSEMENT ALERT: The Nassau County Conservative Party just endorsed my campaign for Governor! They’re all in to Save Our State! pic.twitter.com/pANDM5ngaK— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) April 27, 2021
While other Republicans are considering entering the race for governor, so far only Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli is the only other declared candidate. He did so in June 2020.
The gubernatorial candidate welcomes all of his endorsements, but he is also humble about it. Rep. Zeldin offered that the “message collectively” is what matters and that “the most important message is in sum total.” The congressman emphasized that “New Yorkers of all stripes” have supported his campaign.