GOP starts search for Cuomo challenger, as Zeldin emerges as early frontrunner

41-year-old Army veteran and former state lawmaker Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) Is in his fourth term in Congress. | Stefani Reynolds / Pool via AP

ALBANY, NY. – Eight potential Republican challengers to Governor Andrew Cuomo joined party leaders at a gathering on the street of the governor’s residence Monday, kicking off the selection process almost a year earlier than usual.

New York Republicans organize early as Cuomo is under investigation for harassment of current and former employees and for covering up Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The procedure in which Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) Standing as the top candidate, signaled the party’s determination to vigorously contest the race for governor in 2022 – and perhaps avoid a difficult primary for the nod

“This is the earliest time, probably in our history, the party has considered nationwide candidacies,” said Nick Langworthy, chairman of the GOP. “Reaching the runway necessary to build a successful campaign for the governor takes a reasonable amount of time. You can’t create a Name ID in six months, and you can’t create a war chest in six months. ”

Democrats have won every race in a statewide ballot in New York since 2004. Cuomo, who has been exposed to a steady stream of scandals over the past few months, has not publicly withdrawn from his plans to seek a fourth term.

The prospect of taking over a wounded incumbent attracted a sizable field on Monday, and that field may actually be larger than it appeared – some potential competitors were absent. And there is still a lot of time for others, as the GOP nominee Marc Molinaro for 2018 did not officially take part in the race until the spring of this year.

But it was Zeldin, representing central and eastern Suffolk County, who said goodbye to the meeting at Albany’s Renaissance Hotel with the greatest dynamism. Zeldin announced his candidacy on April 8, quickly citing the progress his campaign had made in the days since it was announced.

“We raised over $ 2.5 million in the first 10 days,” he said. “Before I chose this race, I called all 62 counties – I called every Republican district chairman in the state, I called dozen of Conservative Party leaders … This is not one of those situations that I choose to race decided and now I’m trying to figure out how to win. We figured out how to win so we can decide whether to run or not. ”

Zeldin, a 41-year-old Army veteran and former lawmaker, is in his fourth term in Congress. He entered the race with the support of party leaders in Suffolk and Nassau, the two counties with the largest percentage of weighted votes in GOP state conventions. Over the weekend, He was supported by the Buffalo Republican Carl Paladino, the party’s gubernatorial candidate for 2010 and a key vote on the party’s right.

“It would be a safe assumption that Lee Zeldin is the front runner,” said Langworthy. “He set the pace for the rest of the field. The question is: will the other potential candidates we heard about today reach this pace? ”

Much of Zeldin’s news on Monday focused on the importance of clearing the field quickly.

“Hopefully the party will choose to be united early [and will be] Campaign with the best candidates for the nationwide ticket in 2021 instead of waiting until 2022, ”he said. “We need this year and a half to get out there and advertise across the state.”

Langworthy agreed that it is best to unite behind an alleged candidate soon: “It is important that we allow a candidate two summers … at best this will be put to bed at the beginning of summer.”

However, other competitors do not commit to this timeframe, which increases the possibility of a GOP area code next spring.

“I’m in for the long term,” said former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was named gubernatorial nominee in 2014, and said he was “99.99 percent” sure he would start a new campaign.

“Will there be a primary school? It’s very possible, but that’s not a bad thing, ”he said. “There is no disagreement. Let’s show our party who has the best chance of winning when it really counts in November.”

“I don’t go anywhere,” said Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli. who started a campaign last summersaid when asked if he would stick with his campaign through an elementary school. He didn’t rule out seeking the Conservative Party’s line if the GOP goes with Zeldin, though that seems unlikely. “The party leadership leans strongly towards Lee,” said the conservative chairman Gerard Kassar in a text.

The Conservative Party is a powerful force in New York City politics. Thanks to the state’s system of merger voting, which allows third parties to support large party candidates, Republicans have relied on the support of much smaller Conservatives in national and local races.

At least half of the potential candidates who attended Monday’s rally appeared unwilling to launch a formal campaign anytime soon. “I’m in the mix,” said Molinaro when asked about the possibility of participating in a second consecutive election. “Whatever role I have to play, I’ll do it.”

Fair or not, Molinaro’s 2018 campaign was hampered by the fact that he belonged to the same party as Donald Trump, which was extremely unpopular in New York.

At Monday’s gathering, the GOP’s first major in-person event since the pandemic began, Molinaro and most of the other attendees avoided the spate of Trump-related issues they’d faced for nearly six years. Instead, they made their case by focusing on Cuomo on a day when the Siena College Research Institute poll found 52 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably, which was his worst score on the poll.

“Thousands of grandparents and parents are dead because this governor wouldn’t admit a mistake,” Molinaro said, referring to Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes in the early stages of the pandemic last year. “I don’t berate or belittle the people I hire … And no, I’ve never touched anyone who works for me. That’s a noticeable difference,” he added, referring to press reports on Cuomo’s treatment of Employees as well as allegations of sexual harassment by current and former employees.

Zeldin, a strong Trump supporter, said New York voters would not care about national issues in the governor’s race.

“You can knock on doors here in Albany, Long Island, or anywhere else in New York and ask what are your three main problems?” And they’ll talk to you about the impact on their wallets, they. If they talk about the quality of their children’s education, they will talk about the scandals coming out of Albany, ”Zeldin said.

However, not every participant sought to take the conversation beyond the former president.

“I love President Trump,” said Andrew Giuliani, New York City’s former first son, who is considering a run. “I will continue to seek advice from President Trump personally and professionally.” Giuliani worked in the Trump White House.

If Republicans want to keep their focus on Cuomo, what if he refuses to run for a fourth term?

Langworthy believes he will: “If he’s not charged first, he’ll likely be re-elected for being a sociopath,” he said.

“At the moment we’re up against Andrew Cuomo,” said Zeldin. “If at some point Andrew Cuomo decides that he will not run for re-election and someone else becomes the Democratic candidate, we will be ready for it.” Because we’re not just talking about Governor Cuomo, but the politics that are making New Yorkers hit their breaking point and go. ”

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