By Ariel Pacheco
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) visited the heart of the South Bronx on Thursday to build a coalition with conservative Hispanics in his campaign for governor.
Maverick City Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) invited Zeldin to address the Hispanic Clergy Organization (HCO) about his campaign at The Christian Community Neighborhood Church, 1437 Longfellow Ave.
The two electeds’ friendship dates back to when they served together in the state senate from 2010-14. Zeldin came hoping to gain the support of Diaz’s conservative Democratic coalition, while Diaz sees Zeldin as a chance to get real change for his community.
“Up in Albany, when you have a one-party rule there is a balance that is off that can impact our lives in negative ways. The balance is off right now,” said Zeldin. “I feel like in many respects our State is going in the wrong direction.”
Zeldin pointed to education as an issue concerning all New Yorkers and suggested lifting caps on charter schools and giving tax credits for school choice.
“I believe that our students should go to school for a quality education and not for indoctrination or brainwashing,” said Zeldin, criticizing the school’s curriculum for looking at teaching critical race theory.
Zeldin also said he disagrees with the pandemic-related requirements that the City has implemented recently. He opposes the requirement that students be vaccinated to return to school and that they have to wear masks in schools. Zeldin also opposes vaccine passports.
“I don’t believe that you should be forced to show your medical information to non-medical strangers in order to live your life,” said Zeldin.
Zeldin, who spoke through a Spanish translator, received frequent applause from those in attendance that included community members and clergy. Meanwhile, Diaz spoke about wanting to unite the Hispanic community around Zeldin.
“The time has come where we have to unite around one single message,” said Diaz, alternating between English and Spanish. “We have to have one message and one belief.”
Diaz noted that 30% of the Hispanic vote in the South Bronx crossed over and voted for Donald Trump in the previous presidential election. Diaz says his goal is to get that number to 40% for the next cycle and that he is shifting his support to the Republican Party because the Democratic Party has taken the Hispanic vote for granted.
The meeting came as Zeldin finds himself as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, which thus far also includes Andrew Giuliani, who is former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s son, and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
A report released two weeks ago also shows that Zeldin has raised $4M, which was $1.7M more than incumbent Governor Cuomo raised. Astorino had raised $1M while Giuliani raised $408,000.
While Zeldin is the favorite, Diaz said he was willing to work with whoever the Republican nominee ends up being.
“Whoever the candidate is for the Republican party, and I think [Zeldin] is going to be the candidate, I want to run their campaign in the Bronx,” said Diaz.
This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com.