Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley, Suffolk County) has been crowned the GOPs presumptive gubernatorial nominee to lead the statewide ticket next November.

Zeldin received 85 percent of the weighted vote from the Republican county leaders in 59 of the state’s 62 counties. Rob Astorino (R-Hawthorne, Westchester County) received the weighted votes from his home county amounting to 5 percent. Ten percent of the county leaders abstained or did not attend the day-long meeting. The other contenders, Andrew Giuliani, Michael Carpinelli and Derrick Gibson did not receive any votes during the non-binding straw poll.

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“Lee has earned this through hard work and determination,” said Nick Langworthy, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee. “We have an overwhelming victory with the strength of Congressman Zeldin in the straw poll. Being named the presumptive nominee will help him with momentum and fundraising. This is a front door campaign and not some backroom deal.”

Langworthy noted that donors from across the state and nation have sent a message through him they want a unified ticket and not infighting.

Giuliani and Astorino say they are still bound and determined to begin circulating petitions to gain ballot access early next year and force a June primary.

The reaction to Zeldin’s ascendency as the presumptive nominee brought swift condemnation from the Democrats.

“By selecting Rep. Lee Zeldin as their presumptive gubernatorial nominee they have chosen an out-of-touch, radical far right, sycophantic Trump supporter who voted to not certify the Electoral College vote on the evening of the January 6th Trump-led insurrection,” said State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs. “The NYS GOP’s decision is good news for Democrats as they have decided to completely break with everyday New York voters who have consistently favored a moderate-progressive agenda for the future of our state.”

The Conservative Party, which never liked the notion of a primary, applauded the Zeldin straw-poll vote.

“On behalf of the Conservative Party I wish to congratulate the GOP on declaring Congressman Lee Zeldin their presumptive nominee for governor,” said Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar. “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. The Conservative Party looks forward to campaigning with the Congressman in every corner of our state from now until Election Day 2022.”

In a prepared statement, Zeldin said, “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. 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.”

 

Attorney General Hopefuls Test the Waters

Also at the county leaders meeting were Michael Henry and John Sarcone, who announced they are considering running for attorney general, taking on incumbent Letitia James (D-Crown Heights, Brooklyn). Both said they will make a formal announcement after touring the state during the summer.

“Tish James is a Cuomo advocate after being the public advocate in New York City. I don’t think she’s done a good job advocating for the people of New York, said Henry (R-Astoria Queens). “You saw what happened with the Covid crisis…. When people were dying in nursing homes with a ventilator stuck in their throat she had nothing to say about it. She then waited ten months to come out and she essentially said the March order from the governor may have led to Covid deaths.”

Henry, 40, who is an immigration attorney in private practice, says he’s seeking to serve one or two terms as attorney general to fix what he views as problems with the office.

John Sarcone, the other potential contender, said, “I’m not running against Tish James. I’m running against the system that has been created here in the state of New York.” Sarcone (R-Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County).

“We need to restore law and order in this state,” he said. “I’m very concerned for the safety of families and children. We need an attorney general that’s going to go out and enforce the law across the board and to be vigilant with it.”

Sarcone, 59, was the regional administrator for the United States General Services Administration serving the Northeast Caribbean region, 2018-2021. He is married with three children.

Both men agreed Zeldin would be the best candidate to head the statewide ticket.

Another announcement came from Joe Pinion (R-Yonkers, Westchester County) who is considering a run against New York’s senior U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate majority leader. Pinion ran a failed candidacy for state Assembly in 2018.

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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at swnsonline@gmail.com.