Zeldin, candidate for governor: New Yorkers “feel like this is the last stand”

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The leading Republican candidate for governor frames next year’s election in stark terms.

“There are a lot of New Yorkers who haven’t given up yet, but they do feel like this is the last stand,” said Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman who announced for governor six weeks ago.

“They emotionally, passionately, are talking about November 8, 2022 as if it’s the last great opportunity to save New York.”

Zeldin is out of the gate early, making seven campaign trips since announcing, and securing the endorsement of a majority of Republican county chairs.

Also running: Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor and lawyer to former President Trump Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Carpinelli, Sheriff of Lewis County.

Zeldin has nothing good to say about Governor Andrew Cuomo, who - if he runs again - would be seeking a fourth term in office.

“Our state is in bad shape. People are hitting their breaking points all across New York. Millions of New Yorkers are upset about the cost of living, public safety, quality of education,” Zeldin said.

Specifically, Zeldin opposes bail reforms; legalized marijuana; police reforms on the use of force and immunity from prosecution; making COVID vaccines mandatory; teaching critical race theory.

More generally, Zeldin opposes what he describes as over-reach by Cuomo and the Democrats who control the state legislature.

He would reform Medicaid, and says the state needs a better plan for broadband.

“What we’ve experienced over this last year plus, since the pandemic hit and the move towards remote learning for so many, the lack of broadband in upstate New York is a killer,” Zeldin said.

And Zeldin pledged upstate New York would have a greater say, if he becomes governor.

“We need balance in Albany, both politically and geographically. Every New Yorker deserves to feel they have a voice and representation in our state’s capitol.”

Zeldin has won seven elections since 2010, including four for congress. He figures he needs to raise between $35 and $50 million to run for governor.

The odds are steep - maybe prohibitive - against any Republican running for statewide office in New York. Democrats have a massive registration advantage.

But Zeldin says “I would not be in this race if I was not convinced we have a plan that will work to win.”

He will have to attract support from independent voters and Democrats tired of Cuomo, a tall order, especially because Zeldin has allied himself with former President Trump.

He supported a move in congress to challenge the 2020 election results, and though he acknowledges Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, he says more investigation of the 2020 election should take place.

Zeldin did not support the proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection of January 6 at the Capitol. He told 7 News there are already congressional committees who can do whatever investigating is required, and he dismissed the idea of a “bipartisan commission.”

“There is no one who really with a straight face can be in congress advocating for this commission and be convinced this is not going to be partisan,” he said.

Zeldin supported fellow New Yorker, north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik, to replace Liz Cheney as the Republican Conference Chair in the House of Representatives. The move was widely seen as a purging of Cheney, who refuses to go along with claims the election was stolen from Trump.

Zeldin, though, suggested it was how Cheney handled the conference chair job.

“I disagree with Liz’s viewpoints on many different things. I have gotten along with her well, I’ve worked with her well. She is someone who has the next 40 steps of her strategy planned out, and it’s a big mystery to everybody else, what those 40 steps are,” he said.

“It’s never all about you when you’re the conference chair.”

Zeldin has served 18 years in the Army, including on both active duty and the rest in the reserves. He has traveled to Fort Drum several times.

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