Zeldin on the move, endorsed by center right-leaning Democrats

U.S. Rep. and GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin.
Photo courtesy of Zeldin for New York

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Lee Zeldin Monday announced endorsements from a cast of center right-leaning current and former Democrat elected officials in his bid to topple Governor Kathy Hochul in the November general election.

The past and present office holders who backed Zeldin – and joined him on the City Hall steps – Monday included City Council Member Robert Holden (D-Queens), former Bronx Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. and former Brooklyn Assembly Member Dov Hikind. 

Holden, a Democrat who’s run for office on both the Democrat and a Republican Party lines and often votes with the council’s five GOP members, said he’s supporting Zeldin – a Suffolk County congress member – in November because of issues like high crime.

“To me, this was a no brainer, and let me tell you why,” Holden said in a release. “Look at the current condition of New York State and New York City. There’s mayhem in our streets, in our courts, in our jails; a mass exodus from New York City and New York State.”

“We’re headed in the wrong direction and the policies of this governor have really made this come to a point where this isn’t an option for many voters in New York, and as a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat – 50 years as a Democrat – the handwriting is on the wall,” he added. “Lee Zeldin is the option for voters in New York State.”

Some of the electeds who threw their support behind Zeldin, particularly Diaz Sr. and Hikind, have controversial pasts. Diaz Sr. came under fire during his time on the council for making anti-LGBTQ plus comments, while Hikind faced harsh backlash for wearing Blackface to a party for the Jewish holiday of Purim in 2013.

Monday’s news conference was the latest example of Zeldin making an appeal to centrist Democrats and Independents concerned about issues like surging crime, lowering taxes and reversing course on congestion pricing to vote for him over Hochul on Nov. 8.

“What you see are current and former Democrat elected officials, and other Democrat community leaders coming together as New Yorkers in this very important moment in time, when we have an opportunity to save our city and save our state,” Zeldin said. “I’m running for governor to be the governor for all New Yorkers whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent. Whether you vote for me or you don’t, it’s our job to work with colleagues in government to find common ground however possible.”

Late last month, Zeldin was backed by the New Era Democrats (NED), a political group that bills itself as bipartisan and once supported former Mayor Bill de Blasio the first time he ran for City Hall. The group also cited high crime as its central reason for supporting Zeldin over Hochul.

The governor’s campaign declined to comment on Zeldin’s endorsements when reached by PoliticsNY.

Diaz Sr. said the city’s Hispanic community, usually a reliable voting block for Democrats, have been taken “for granted” and warned they could defect to voting for a Republican in the governor’s race.

“As a Hispanic, I’m here to tell the Democratic Party you have taken us for granted for many years,” the former Bronx lawmaker said. “The Hispanic community has been voting Democrat, but now we are awakened.”

According to a poll from the right-leaning polling firm co/efficient, that put Zeldin just 6 points behind Hochul over the weekend, the Hispanic vote is split evenly between Zeldin and Hochul – who both received 41 percent support of Hispanic voters, with 18 percent of respondents undecided.

But those results sharply contrast with a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday that put Hochul 15 points ahead of Zeldin overall and gave her a 57 percent edge over him with Hispanic and Latino voters. Plus, an Emerson College poll released Friday that also had Hochul with a 15-point lead over Zeldin.

Hochul’s campaign has consistently declined to comment on polls.