‘The Big Lie’ reigns’: Just one of New York’s four Republican governor candidates believe Biden won the 2020 presidential election

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Last week former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, far left, businessman Harry Wilson, second from left, Suffolk County Congressman Lee Zeldin, second from right, and Andrew Giuliani, far right, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, face off during New York’s Republican gubernatorial debate at the studios of CBS2 TV, Monday, June 13, 2022. On Monday they debated for the second and final time on Spectrum News NY1 on Monday, June 20, 2022.
File photo/AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Denial about the 2020 presidential election persists among three of the four Republican candidates seeking to become governor of New York.

When asked point-blank at Tuesday’s GOP debate if they believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, just one of the four candidates — businessman Harry Wilson — said they believed Biden was duly elected.

Two other candidates — Long Island Congress Member Lee Zeldin, who voted against certifying Biden’s electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after the Capitol was attacked — and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astarino made ambiguous claims that they believed it wasn’t clear Biden won the election. They made those statements despite the fact that the numerous lies about the election being rigged against former President Donald Trump have been thoroughly debunked, time and again.

And then there’s Andrew Giuliani, son of former mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani (who filed numerous failed lawsuits against the 2020 election results on the former president’s behalf), who made it clear Tuesday that he had bought “The Big Lie” hook, line and sinker. 

“I believe that Donald Trump on Nov. 3, 2020 was reelected,” Giuliani said. “There was election fraud that happened in 2020 that honestly the media did not want to cover and the judiciary did not have the guts to actually take it up. I believe that President Trump was reelected.”

It was one of several contentious moments between the four candidates at the Spectrum News NY1 debate. 

Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, including that thousands of dead people voted for Biden and that Dominion voting machines shifted votes from Trump to Biden, have repeatedly been proven false.

During the ongoing Congressional hearings looking into the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump’s supporters, several of the former president’s own advisers have testified that there was no merit to the election being stolen – something they told him repeatedly to no avail.

Yet at Tuesday’s debate, Zeldin continued to insist there was wrongdoing, claiming that counties in Pennsylvania have varying election rules and not allowing the “close” observation of ballots being opened were evidence of fraud.

“It’s something that we will never for sure know the exact consequence of,” Zeldin said. “In Pennsylvania, allowing one county to have different rules than another county or not allowing the close observation of the opening of ballots.”

Wilson, on the other hand, said he believes the fact that Biden was duly elected — and it was time for the party to move on from The Big Lie.

“I believe that we Republicans need to move on and focus on addressing the problems that really hurt working families today,” he said.

Turning to New York issues, Wilson said he believes he can address those problems by enacting a conservative agenda through the state budget process, in answering a question on how candidates would be able to pass Republican policies with Democratic supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.

A key piece to that, Wilson said, is that he believes the Democrats will lose their supermajority in the upper chamber, which would allow the governor to veto legislation without facing an override from Democrats.

“In the world where I win and get elected in November, we will have at least a one third minority in the Senate to block any veto override,” Wilson said. So that’s the first piece. The second piece is the governor of New York has the most powerful budgetary authority of any governor in the country. negotiate in good faith. But as you know, if the legislature does not pass a budget by March 31, that you’re not get paid until the budget is passed. I don’t need to get paid.”

Zeldin also said he doesn’t believe there’ll be Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature come November. 

As a former county executive, Astorino claimed he’s the only candidate who has experience negotiating budgets in executive office with a Democratic-controlled legislature – in this case the Westchester County Board. Astorino said he was able to use his veto power in that position to full effect to push against Democratic priorities and push for his agenda.

“I vetoed things when the Democrats went crazy, like trying to make us a sanctuary county, I veto that,” Astorino said. “When they wanted to spend more and more and more and tax and tax and tax, I put the stakes in the ground and said, ‘nuh-uh. We’re not raising the budget, because that’ll mean we’ll have to raise taxes.’ We didn’t either, we cut taxes. I got my agenda done because I knew how to lead as an executive, I actually got results. That’s what this is all about. And yes, as governor, I will use my leverage.”

Those changes include cutting taxes and rolling back regulations to make it easier for businesses to stay in New York, he said.

Both the Republican and Democratic primaries for governor, other state-wide offices and Assembly are a week away on June 28. Early voting is ongoing through Sunday, June 26.

For more information on early voting hours and locations, click here.

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