Hochul slams Zeldin for pre-2020 election texts to White House, in a rare direct attack on her opponent

Governor Kathy Hochul calls Rep. Lee Zledin a co-conspirator in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol while speaking to reporters. Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Appearing to take the gloves off for the first time this general election season, Governor Kathy Hochul blasted her GOP rival Rep. Lee Zledin Tuesday as a “co-conspirator” in the Jan. 6 2021 storming of Capitol Hill.

The broadside came in response to a question from PoliticsNY Tuesday following an unrelated press conference. Hochul was referencing text messages Zeldin sent to former President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in November 2020 – a day before the election was called for Democratic President Joe Biden, where he appeared to offer ideas for how to undermine the election results.

In the messages – obtained by Hochul’s campaign from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot – Zeldin gave Meadows two ideas for how the administration could sow doubt in the yet-to-be-announced election results: to set up a web page highlighting alleged “voting irregularities” and have a spokesperson give daily press briefings pointing to those irregularities in each state.

On Tuesday, Hochul slammed Zeldin for the text messages as well as voting against the certification of Biden’s election victory hours after rioters had stormed the Capitol.

“Not only did he vote to overturn the presidential election, he was one of the early co-conspirators sending text messages, trying to give a strategy to the White House, the Chief of Staff of the White House, on how to subvert the will of the people,” Hochul said.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin.Photo courtesy of Zeldin for New York

Hochul took things a step further, raising the idea that Zeldin may question the results of New York’s governor’s race this year if he doesn’t come out on top in the Nov. 8 election.

“He may be doing that right now here in the state of New York,” she said. “I don’t know that he’s not already planning to find a way to, when I win the election, question the integrity of the election. This person cannot be trusted.”

But Zeldin’s campaign quickly hit back, saying the congress member made it clear in the text messages to Trump’s team they should highlight vetted and confirmed information and make sure that unvetted information is labeled as such.

In a statement to PoliticsNY, Zeldin campaign spokesperson Katie Vincentz said Hochul should spend more time focussing on issues their campaign has highlighted, such as crime and the high cost of living, than on the congress member’s text messages from the 2020 election.

“You know Kathy Hochul is desperate when she’d rather obsess over a text message sent at the beginning of November before the election was even called, rather than focusing on the issues most important to New Yorkers, including rising crime on our streets and a skyrocketing cost of living,” Vincentz said. “The fact that Kathy Hochul spends all her time pathetically grasping at straws like this instead of making life easier, safer and more affordable for New Yorkers tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about Kathy Hochul.”