New York State Republican Party leaders anointed Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin as their “presumptive nominee” for governor following a straw poll on Monday to take on scandal-scarred three-term incumbent Andrew Cuomo or another Democrat next year.
In the straw poll, an overwhelming 85 percent of county leaders said they backed Zeldin while only five percent preferred former Westchester County Executive and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.
Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew, did not garner any support while ten percent of the leaders abstained.
Both Astorino and Andrew Giuliani vowed to soldier on and run as insurgents against Zeldin to woo Republican voters and win the nomination.
Zeldin was thrilled that his early announcement for the nomination paid off.
“Since announcing our candidacy for governor, together we’ve built a groundswell of support inside and outside of politics from every corner of our state,” Zeldin said.
“For so many New Yorkers, this is a last chance to Save Our State, to return New York
from the brink and restore it to glory. Today’s vote underscores that the Republican Party is united in this mission, and in November 2022, we will win because we have to win.”
A Republican has not won a statewide race since 2002, when GOP Gov. George Pataki was elected a third term following the Sept. 11 attacks.
State Republican Party chairman Nick Langworthy said Zeldin is their party’s choice.
“Lee achieved 85 percent of the weighted vote. It was substantial, it was representing all regions. I think he really, truly earned this title of presumptive nominee,” Langworthy said.
“I think this will give an added boost to his campaign as he goes to raise funds and build support both in the Republican party and cross over voters.”
Langworthy said he didn’t expect Giuliani or Astorino to be successful in mounting a primary challenge against Zeldin.
“Donors are coming to me and saying, `we don’t want to waste our money on a primary.’ The task is too great. It’s so hard to win in a blue state. A primary would be a foolish expenditure of resources and I think donors would be far less likely to give. I think it’s very unrealistic,” he said.
“There will be more and more support around Congressman Zeldin.”
Langworthy also said he spoke to former President Donald Trump, who follows politics closely in his native state, about the movement toward Zeldin.
Zeldin also has the backing of the state Conservative Party, which provides a crucial ballot line to right-leaning voters — a key for a Republican to have a shot at winning a state-wide race in Democratic-leaning New York.
“On behalf of the Conservative Party I wish to congratulate the GOP on declaring Congressman Lee Zeldin their presumptive nominee for Governor. In doing so the GOP and Conservative Party will be united in supporting Zeldin, fully 16 months before the 2022 gubernatorial election giving his campaign the time and resources to successfully challenge scandal-scarred Democrat Andrew Cuomo or whomever the Democrats decide to put up,” said state Conservative Party chairman Gerard Kassar..
“The Conservative Party looks forward to campaigning with the Congressman in every corner of our state from now until Election Day 2022.”
Astorino vowed to wage a primary despite the results.
“The three million Republicans throughout New York will be deciding who the strongest candidate is in next June’s primary, not a few dozen party insiders, many of whom have told me they were pressured into making an endorsement they weren’t ready to make. This early straw poll is meaningless and eventually I’ll be the straw that breaks Cuomo’s back next November,” Astorino said in a statement.
Giuliani — who served as a White House aide to former President Donald Trump and whose campaign issued its own poll on Sunday claiming he led Zeldin by eight points among likely Republican voters statewide — dismissed the straw poll results. He said the preference of rank-and-file Republican voters, not party poohbahs, is what matters.
“It’s up to the 2.9 million registered Republicans in New York State,” Giuliani said after the vote.
“We ultimately can win this thing. We present them [the voters] with the best chance for a Republican to take back New York. We can appeal to more crossover voters.”
Giuliani is holding two fundraisers, including one Tuesday night at Empire Steak House in Midtown. Former presidential candidate Steve Forbes is the featured speaker.