Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin Wednesday claimed his bid for governor has “a lot of support” among voters who may have backed centrist Rep. Tom Suozzi’s (D–Long Island, Queens) failed run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary because of issues like rising crime and inflation.
“We do have a lot of support amongst people who in a Democratic Primary might vote for Congressman Suozzi and quite frankly, a whole lot of other Democrats who didn’t vote in the primary,” Zeldin said. “And they are concerned about crime and the economy. They talk to me about how they feel like their party has left them. They don’t want one party rule at every level of government. They want balance and they want common sense restored.”
Zeldin, a Long Island rep who won the Republican nomination for governor last week according to unofficial vote totals from the state Board of Elections (BOE), said he believes Suozzi supporters are some of the many Democrats who will defect to voting for his campaign in the general election. Suozzi came in third in the Democratic Primary, where Kathy Hochul won over 60 percent of the vote. The Long Island rep captured just 11 percent of the vote, coming behind city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams who received nearly 28 percent.
The Democratic primary also had very low voter turnout.
According to Board of elections data, about 865,000 registered Democrats — or 13% of the roughly 6.5 million registered Democrats across the state voted for governor. The turnout was meager compared to the 2018 gubernatorial primary when 1,558,000 Democratic primary voters, or 25% of registered Democrats participated.
The congressman made the remarks after a ceremony celebrating the retirement of his running mate for lieutenant governor Alison Esposito from her career in the NYPD at the 70th Precinct in central Brooklyn where she was the commanding officer.
In addition to the “disenfranchised Democrats” who think the current Democratic leadership isn’t doing enough to bring down crime and lower the cost of living, Zeldin said he believes “most independents” will also come out to support his long-shot bid for the governor’s mansion.
“I believe that we will not only have strong support amongst registered Republicans and conservatives in the state [but also] many independents, most independents,” Zeldin said. “There are also many disenfranchised Democrats who feel like the direction this state is heading, where you see pro-criminal policies and limitless spending, where there’s no controls, taxes that are unaffordable, a cost of living that is unsustainable and a future for New York that many feel like is a path that will force us to hit rock bottom. And nobody wants to experience that. So I know that come this November, we will have a lot of support amongst people who would prefer that the Democratic Party had nominated Congressman Suozzi.”
Zeldin has been representing Suffolk County in Congress since 2015 and served two terms in the state Senate before heading to Washington. He’s a veteran who fought in the Iraq War and remains a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves.
The Congressman centered his campaign, built on the slogan of “Save Our State,” around the issues of cutting taxes, removing COVID-19 restrictions and reversing criminal justice reforms passed by the state legislature in recent years, which he says will reduce crime.
Hochul has a significant advantage over Zeldin in the race, both because she’s amassed over $34 billion in campaign cash over this election cycle so far, and because there are more than twice as many registered Democrats than Republicans in New York. And although Hochul’s only been in office for less than a year, taking over after her predecessor Andrew Cuomo resigned following several accusations of sexual harassment, she also has the power of incumbency on her side.
Zeldin may also have a hard time toppling Hochul because he’s a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, who voted against certifying the 2020 election just hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to overturn the election won by President Joe Biden.
Hochul’s campaign is already using Zeldin’s association with Trump to their advantage. On Wednesday they sent out a release highlighting reporting from The Buffalo News that Republican state Senate candidate Joel Giambra dropped out of his upstate race because he no longer wants to be associated with a party that “still worships Donald Trump.”
“One week out from his nomination, Lee Zeldin’s own party is already abandoning him and his right-wing agenda,” said Hochul Campaign spokeswoman Jen Goodman. “In the months to come, New Yorkers from both parties will continue to reject Zeldin’s dangerous vision to bring more guns to our state, take away abortion rights, and drag New York backward.”