U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) clinched enough support from Republican leaders across New York State to emerge as the presumptive nominee in next year’s gubernatorial election, the state GOP announced Monday.
Zeldin, who represents the East End but has been traveling across the state to build support for his campaign, drew 85% of the vote in a straw poll among the GOP’s county leaders statewide, the party said. The congressman has taken aim in recent months at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose prospects for a fourth term dimmed following a string of scandals that sparked NY State’s first impeachment inquiry in more than a century.
“He is raising the resources we need to be competitive and he is a fighter who has what it takes to fire Andrew Cuomo and return common sense to New York,” State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said in an email to supporters.
Zeldin gained national exposure in being among the most prominent defenders of former President Donald Trump during Trump’s two impeachment proceedings. Before being elected to Congress in 2014, he served in the state Senate and in the Iraq War.
“All across New York, the support has been overwhelming, and everyone is all in to fire Andrew Cuomo and work each and every day for the next year and a half to get the job done,” Zeldin said.
Despite Zeldin earning presumptive nominee status, he could still face a primary from fellow gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Giuliani, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s son, ex-Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and others.
Should his frontrunner status hold, Zeldin will likely forgo re-election to Congress, leaving a vacant seat for who will represent the Hamptons and the North Fork in the House of Representatives. Democratic candidates have already been lining up in that race, with Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) recently throwing her hat in the ring after Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) announced her second run at the seat.