Assemblyman Joseph Giglio and two other Republican assemblymen endorsed Rep. Lee Zeldin for governor on Tuesday.
Joining Giglio in endorsing Zeldin, the frontrunner for the Republican and Conservative nods to run for governor this year, were GOP Assemblymen Mike Norris and Angelo Morinello.
Zeldin, the Long Island congressman who expected earlier in 2021 to seek the nod to challenge former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been racing from one end of the state to the other, including campaign stops in Cattaraugus County.
He has out-campaigned his two expected primary opponents: former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran for governor against Cuomo in 2014, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of the former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Both continue to say they will circulate nominating petitions to challenge Zeldin in a June primary.
In his endorsement of Zeldin, Giglio said, “We live in a dangerous time, where elected representatives time and again routinely take the side of criminals on our streets instead of the law enforcement officers working hard to keep us safe. This dangerous trend has to stop.”
Giglio was referring to criminal justice reforms under Cuomo that vacated cash bail for many crimes as well as other measures that Republicans say are soft on crime.
“(Zeldin) has proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with our police,” Giglio said. “As governor, he will take Albany in a new direction, one that provides the support and tools our law enforcement needs to keep themselves and our communities safe, which is why I’m proud to support him.”
In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 2-1, and where no statewide Republican has been elected since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002, a Republican candidate is going to need a lot of votes from Democrats.
Does Zeldin’s vote not to certify the 2020 presidential election for Democrat Joe Biden make his campaign for Democratic votes that much harder?
Giglio said state Republican lawmakers asked Zeldin that question.
“He said he felt justified and he realizes that, downstate, it will be held against him,” Giglio said. Zeldin plans “to tell New Yorkers what he plans to do to make the state a better place. ... There will be people that don’t like him.”
Giglio said that he feels Zeldin is the strongest candidate. “Astorino had his run. The state Republican Committee has backed him.” Giuliani has some name recognition from his father “but has no experience and no record.”
New York Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy, a native of Dayton, decided the county chairmen should get behind one candidate last summer so they could start to raise money and run a good campaign, Giglio said. “I hope we can avoid a primary. A primary will be bad for us.”
It will mean candidates have to raise money to fight each other for the nomination until the June primary instead of concentrating their message on Gov. Kathy Hochul and other Democratic candidates until the November election, Giglio said.
Hochul, who stepped into the governor’s post when a scandal-plagued Cuomo resigned in 2021, is in a strong position to receive the nomination to run for a full term. New York Attorney General Letitia James had announced a run for governor, but polling in early December indicated Hochul had a commanding lead and James stepped aside.
Left in the Democratic race for governor against Hochul is New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a progressive and activist, and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Long Island moderate.
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had floated the possibility of a run for governor but has yet to announce a campaign.