Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar engages in conversation with Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D - Borough Park, Brooklyn) during the two-day Conservative Party meeting. Eichenstein is one of two Assembly Democrats to receive the Conservative Party line last year.

Conservatives running on their own party line and the Republican line lost all the statewide races but won races for the state Assembly, Senate and Congress. At a recent gathering in Albany, approximately 100 top Conservative leaders from across the state gathered to celebrate whatever seats they won and pledged to do better in 2024.

(L to R) Brandon Willams, Marcus Molinaro, Nick LaLota and Michael Lawler.

“There was definitely a red wave that Lee Zeldin caused,” said state Conservative Party boss Jerry Kassar. “That wave did involve the state Legislature. We picked up a lot of seats in the Assembly. We picked up [seats] in the state Senate, and I think generally speaking the Lee Zeldin candidacy helped grow the movement and helped grow the party.”


Zeldin boasted about making successful inroads among the Asian, Dominican and Jewish communities.

“We won the Asian-American vote including Chinatown in Manhattan, Flushing in Queens, Sunset Park in Brooklyn. These are heavily Democrat communities. When we show up there, we don’t show up pandering for their votes,” Zeldin said. “Our message was we need to fight back against the rising crime rate. You should feel safe on our streets and in our subways. We should repeal cashless bail and we should get rid of rogue DAs like Alvin Bragg. We need to improve the quality of education inside of our schools. For these Asian-American parents, they care about merit-based entry inside of specialty schools. They care about combating the advancement of critical race theory. They want advanced academics. They don’t want it to be limited in the name of equity.”

Former gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Lee Zeldin speaks passionately to the Conservative Party faithful about staying engaged to win additional races in 2024.

Zeldin said the Orthodox Jewish vote was a key factor in his campaign. Zeldin was endorsed by The Jewish Press.

“The Orthodox Jewish vote in places like Brooklyn, for example, there were election districts where we got well north of 90 to 95 percent of the vote in districts that are massively Democrat,” Zeldin said. “They split the ticket. They were voting mostly Democrat but they voted Republican for governor because they saw Albany attacking school choice. They saw Albany attacking yeshiva education. They saw it with the Covid mandates. They see it with the rise in antisemitism. People who were elected to office were unwilling to call out antisemitism every single time in any form. They [The Orthodox Jewish community] decided enough is enough and they decided to go on offense.”

Zeldin bemoaned the fact that despite being treated unfairly by the Hochul administration, the New York State Business Council endorsed her candidacy, possibly making the difference in a race where Zeldin lost by six percentage points, 53 to 47 percent, a difference of 317,342 out of 5,423,620 cast.

“The Business Council is getting hit with an unemployment insurance surcharge. Right now, there is more than an $8 billion surplus in the New York state budget and they are talking about increasing spending and continuing to waste money,” Zeldin said. “The Business Council of New York is facing a raise in the minimum wage [tied] to inflation. That’s a big annual increase. This is a strategic problem. If you want to get over the hump, we have to look at every single person who did not step up in this governor’s race and get them to step up next time. We have state agencies that prosecute businesses instead of supporting them to the point where the only way you can get a business to move to New York is to bribe them [with financial incentives and tax breaks]. That’s all that’s left.”

Although Zeldin did not disclose what he would be doing in the intervening four years, he closed his remarks with this ominous statement and maybe a Zeldin redux.

“As we look to the future, as we look to save our state, to save our country, to grow this party, to win over independents and Democrats, to actually being able to accomplish getting over the finish line, the policy goals that have us involved in this movement in the first place, we all need to be everywhere doing our part with the mentality and code that we live by where losing is not an option,” Zeldin said. “It was an honor to be in this fight with each and every one of you. I look forward to our next opportunity to do it again and maybe it will be an opportunity to finish what we started.”

State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar makes a significant point to the party loyalists at the recent two-day enclave.

The party conference also included a panel discussion by four of the seven freshmen congressmen from across the state. They were asked which committees they were appointed to, what being seated on those committees means to them and their constituents, and their goals for the next two years to keep their seats in Republican-Conservative hands. Only one congressman obliquely mentioned scandal-scarred George Santos – and not by name.

“They [the Democrats] are coming for these districts. They are looking for us to make mistakes. We have to play perfect ball. It’s why we do get frustrated by some of our colleagues or at least a colleague [George Santos] who thinks that honesty isn’t fundamentally important in public service,” said Congressman Marcus Molinaro, a Republican who currently resides outside his district because of redistricting and must move into his Congressional district this year. “We need you to be there with us because these next two years it’s only going to get progressively more challenging for those of us in these seats. I am confident, with your help, we will hold on to these seats and even expand our majority if you stand with us over these next two years.”

It has been rumored that Senator Michelle Hinchey, whose father Maurice once represented most of the district, will give up her seat to challenge Molinaro in 2024 – a presidential year when Democrats often see a heavy turnout.

Molinaro was appointed to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House Agriculture Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

Joining Molinaro on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is Brandon Williams (R – Sennet, Cayuga County), a United States Navy veteran who was a nuclear submarine officer and separated as a lieutenant. A businessman, he is the co-founder of, a software company based in San Mateo, California. Williams has also been appointed to two additional committees, the Space, Science and Technology and the Education and Workforce committees. Williams said, “I’m the only nuclear engineer in Congress.” He also home-schools his two children. “I’ll be focusing on school choice,” Williams noted.

“The Democrats are embarrassed by what happened and they are gunning for all of us on this stage and Anthony D’Esposito and they’re going to do everything they can to defeat us. The Conservative Party is once again going to be pivotal in all that we do in 2024,” said Michael Lawler (R – Pearl River, Rockland County). Two names Lawler did not mention were George Santos, who represents a Nassau/Queens district, and Nick Langworthy, the state Republican Party chairman from western New York.

Lawler has been selected to serve on the House Financial Services and House Foreign Affairs committees.

“Financial Services is critical to New York. In my district, there are about 30,000 financial sector services employees that live in it. It is important that we have a voice,” Lawler said. “My district has had long representation on the House Foreign Affairs committee. I have one of the largest Jewish communities living in my district. It’s important to have a voice in that process as well.”

“There is broad bipartisan support both for the creation of the House Select Committee on China as well as banning the President from selling our strategic petroleum reserves to China. The reason I think there is broad bipartisan support is because most members, who are not part of the “squad,” recognize that China is a serious adversary and a threat economically, politically, militarily, and that we need to treat them as such,” Lawler said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of work focused on China and the relationship between the United States and China and the Chinese Communist Party and the work they are doing both economically, and militarily as a competitor to the United States. It is a serious crisis we’re dealing with, with China. We need to get serious about taking them on.”

“The fact that we would even entertain for a moment the Chinese Communist Party or any subsidiary thereof, to purchase American farmland, in particular American farmland next to sensitive American assets, is not only asinine, it is dangerous. We absolutely need to take steps to prevent that from occurring,” Molinaro, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said.

Congressman Nick LaLota (R – Amityville, Suffolk County) succeeded Zeldin and noted the freshmen from New York are getting along famously but Santos is being ignored. “We, along with Nick Langworthy [and Anthony D’Esposito], are making a heck of a freshman team in the House and we’ve been working together and the leadership is taking us very seriously.”

LaLota, a Navy veteran, was appointed to the House Armed Services, Homeland Security and Small Business committees.

LaLota said he wants answers about the Chinese balloon when Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appears before the committee

“I want to ensure there is not another terrorist attack and we have to secure the border. Mayorkas is failing miserably at that job,” LaLota said. “Who actually made the decision not to do something over a Chinese Communist Party asset flying across our land and to what extent were levels of the chain of command notified or not notified? I am worried as hell that a lot of that happened over our land. It’s not only just pictures of our military site, maybe nuclear power sites, but also collecting of communications that were coming from Americans and would be bound maybe for satellites that were grabbed by this aerial vehicle. I think that there was an opportunity for us to engage this aerial vehicle and it could have been done in Western territorial waters. Regular folks like us are really concerned that a severe adversary of ours has the upper hand.”

Democrat Robert Zimmerman, who lives in Great Neck, Nassau County, lost to Santos by 7.5 percentage points, a difference of 20,420 of 271,228 votes cast. Zimmerman owns and operates ZE Creative Communications.  He told The Jewish Press recently his only focus is putting together a bipartisan coalition to remove Santos from office.

Santos has not said what his future holds as he is under several investigations for numerous instances of lying and possibly misappropriating funds in his personal life. There is a strong possibility Santos will face a primary challenge but no one has emerged yet.


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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 [email protected].