Lee Zeldin, GOP and Conservative front runner for governor in 2022, stops in Orleans
Congressman from Long Island sees a vulnerable Cuomo from personal scandal, unpopular policies
LYNDONVILLE – Lee Zeldin, the front runner to be the Republican and Conservative candidate for governor in 2022, stopped in Orleans County on Friday to meet with local Conservative Party leaders.
Zeldin said the state is at a “breaking point” with economic and public safety policies pushing New Yorkers throughout the state to leave.
“We’re getting our wallets attacked, our education system attacked and our freedoms,” Zeldin said. “We will win because we have to win.”
Zeldin spoke for just over an in hour inside a garage at Paul Lauricella’s property on Route 18. Zeldin on Friday was on day 5 of an 8-day swing across the state. While he spoke at Lauricella’s, rain pounded on the roof and it was unseasonably chilly with temperatures in the mid-40s.
“I’m taking nothing for granted,” Zeldin told the group. “That’s why I’m here. We need everybody, everywhere to be all in.”
Zeldin, a congressman from Long Island, thanked Lauricella for the invitation. Lauricella is chairman of the Orleans County Conservative party and has endorsed Zeldin in next year’s election.
Lauricella cited Zeldin’s conservative views and voting record, and a biography that includes four years on Active Duty with the U.S. Army, including serving with the 82nd Airborne Division on a deployment to Iraq.
Skip Draper, the Orleans County Republican Party chairman, also has endorsed Zeldin and sees him as a future U.S. president. Zeldin already has the support from the majority of the Republican and Conservative leaders in the state.
Democrats have won the last four gubernatorial races, with Andrew Cuomo elected the last three elections – 2010, 2014 and 2018.
“We will be running against a beatable opponent,” Zeldin said about the current governor.
Cuomo is facing personal scandal with allegations of sexual harassment, and a storm over the state’s accounting for nursing home deaths due to Covid.
“The deadly nursing home cover-up that alone is enough for him to resign,” Zeldin said.
The governor also faces criticism for writing a book with staff help about leadership lessons during the Covid-19 pandemic, and was paid $5 million for a book that has sold 45,000 copies.
Zeldin said the governor is increasingly unpopular with Covid restrictions that Zeldin said don’t make much sense to the public. He cited the recent announcement to have vaccinated and unvaccinated sections in arenas and ballparks as one example. Many of the restrictions have shut down businesses permanently, and led to staggering job losses in the state.
The governor has infuriated many conservatives during his tenure as governor, from the SAFE Act to the more recent criminal justice reforms, as well as an escalating state budget and economic development funding “that picks winners and losers,” Zeldin said.
He was most critical of criminal justice reforms that ended cash bail for most crimes, putting residents at risk, with people who commit crimes less likely to be held in jail.
If Cuomo doesn’t run for re-election in 2022, Zeldin said the Democratic Party will no doubt rally behind a progressive candidate with a big budget view of the government.
That isn’t the kind of leader the state wants right now, Zeldin said. He believes he will appeal to voters of all parties and persuasions.
“When we talk about the issues – the attacks on our wallets and the erosion of public safety – it will connect with Democrats, too,” Zeldin said. “Democrats are concerned about the cost of living, too. We have to go beyond the Republican and Conservative base.”
It is difficult for a Republican to win a state-wide office in New York. Registered Democrats more than double the number of registered Republicans in the state.
In February the voter registration statewide included 6,748,526 Democrats, 2,914,704 Republicans, 162,330 Conservatives, 48,207 in the Working Families Party and 504,988 in other parties. There were also 3,015,356 “blanks” or unaffiliated voters. Democrats represent 50.4 percent of the 13,394,111 registered voters, according to the state Board of Elections.
Zeldin believes he can win by connecting with more voters in New York City, including Democrats disillusioned with the current state economic and criminal justice policies.
Republicans do very well in upstate New York, especially rural counties. But Zeldin said he will need to get an even stronger turnout in many of those areas, boosting the vote from 62 percent for Republicans to 68 percent.
“Democrats can afford to waste time and money, and fight amongst themselves and still win,” Zeldin said. “We can’t.”
That is why he announced his candidacy last month in April, 19 months before the election. He is working to raise $35 to $50 million, the amount of money he said that is needed to be competitive. And he will keep crisscrossing the state, shoring up support.
“No county is too big or too small,” Zeldin said. “We will pursue the New York City market, and we will go to Hamilton County, Clinton County and Orleans County.”
Zeldin has been elected to four terms as a congressman. He said he enjoys the job and expects Republicans to swing back into the majority after the 2022 election.
He would be happy to stay in Congress, and he will be giving up that position by running for governor.
The state needs a new direction, Zeldin said, after a drastic swing against public safety, against a sustainable state budget, against affordability for working class residents.
“Millions of New Yorkers are hitting the breaking point,” he said.