U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) won the primary race to become the GOP candidate for New York State governor, the Associated Press called on Tuesday night.
At about 10:30 p.m., supporters erupted in cheers and chants of “Zeldin” at Coral House in Baldwin. With 50% of the vote in, he was already well ahead of his three challengers: Former aide to ex-President Donald Trump Andrew Giuliani, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and businessman Harry Wilson.
“This November in the state of New York, one party rule will end, Kathy Hochul will get fired, and we will restore common sense to Albany,” Zeldin told the crowd. He also thanked his three opponents.
Zeldin will now face off in November against Gov. Kathy Hochul, who won in the Democratic primary race against Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“Long Island will create momentum that will drive [Zeldin] to the executive mansion and we will change this state for once and all so that our families can live safe,” said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. “We have a revolving door of criminality, a state where criminals have more rights than victims, and that’s going to change this November.”
Zeldin has been congressman of New York’s 1st congressional district, which covers the East End and part of the Town of Brookhaven, since 2014. He joined Congress after four years as a state senator and was previously an attorney at his own private practice in Smithtown. The Iraq War veteran is also a part of the Army Reserve.
Zeldin emerged as a leader in the Republican party around 2020, when he became outspoken about what he calls then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “deadly nursing home order” during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He then criticized Hochul, the former lieutenant governor, who stepped up as the first woman in New York’s highest office after Cuomo resigned in August 2021, for keeping Cuomo’s health commissioner in her administration. (That health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, resigned not long into Hochul’s administration, and Hochul hired Dr. Mary Bassett in September.)
Zeldin also made headlines for being one of 121 Republican members of Congress to object to the certification of electoral college votes to elect President Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021 and for publicly defending Trump during the ex-president’s two impeachment proceedings.
Alison Esposito, who Zeldin chose to run alongside him, secured her spot as the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, according to AP.
“It’s been an amazing night full of emotions, and I could not be happier to stand here before you. I am humbled to be your candidate for lieutenant governor,” Esposito said. “And I promise on Nov. 8, Lee Zeldin and I will protect and lead New York State back to glory, the New York State that you deserve.”