Early voting starts June 18 in the Democratic and Republican primaries that will decide which gubernatorial candidates — the congressman representing the East End among them — will be on ballots on Election Day.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the GOP nominee in the race for the governorship, is facing three primary challengers: former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, former aide to ex-President Donald Trump Andrew Giuliani and businessman Harry Wilson. Zeldin is trying to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat being primaried by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Early voting runs 10 days, through to June 26 with one day off before the June 28 primary election. Learn more about the candidates below.
Astorino, a former radio industry professional and two-term Westchester County executive from 2010 to 2017, is running for governor for a second time. He’s promised to release an agenda to address New York’s steep job loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as address government corruption and the state’s high taxes and cost of living.
During the first televised GOP debate on June 13, each candidate was asked whether they thought former President Donald Trump should run for president again, and what they thought of the ongoing Congressional hearings into the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Astorino said Trump “bears some responsibility” in the insurrection but said it’s time for the country to move on.
In a separate interview with Dan’s Papers sister publication PoliticsNY, he said he would work across the aisle with Democrats to achieve policy and budget goals, if elected.
“I have a long history of working with Democrats of good will to move an agenda forward,” he told PoliticsNY. “I led Westchester County for eight years as a genuine fiscal conservative while Democrats controlled the county legislature with significant majorities. I found there were many areas in which we could agree, and eventually formed a working bipartisan majority in the Legislature that helped transform Westchester.”
The son of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani debated from a separate television studio than the other candidates because he was barred from being on the same stage after refusing to submit proof he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Giuliani said if elected, he will restore the jobs of public workers fired for not getting the vaccine. He pledged to empower the police and called for a return of the “stop-and-frisk” policing tactic in New York City, which was scaled back by police after a judge found it had violated the civil rights of many law-abiding Black people. He also praised Trump as a “great president” and pledged to do for New York what Trump did for the country.
He separately said if he were elected, he’d sue to get his agenda through Democratic opposition.
“I intend to use the leverage afforded to me under the New York State Constitution and through the courts — as decided by Silver v. Pataki and Pataki v. Assembly — to produce the largest budget reduction in the history of the state of New York,” he told PoliticsNY. “New York’s budget, at $220 billion, is more than double that of Florida’s $97 billion, despite having roughly the same population. We owe it to New Yorkers to put an end to wasteful government spending.”
Hochul is asking voters to keep her on as New York State’s first woman governor — a job she got when her predecessor Andrew Cuomo resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
During her first Democratic debate on June 7, she defended her decision to spend $850 million of taxpayer money on a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, arguing the stadium deal will create jobs and economically benefit New York. She also said her positions on guns had evolved in the 10 years since she got a favorable rating from the NRA while running for reelection in a Republican-heavy New York district.
“That was a decade ago. Judge me by what I’ve done because a lot of people have evolved since I took that position,” she said. “You know what we need? More people to evolve.”
Hochul is considered the frontrunner in the race, not only because she can claim incumbency but also because she has dominated campaign fundraising and has stacked up endorsements, including the backing of the state Democratic party.
The Buffalo native recently signed into law new gun reforms since the recent supermarket massacre claimed 10 lives as well as women’s rights laws after the recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion suggested Roe v. Wade guaranteeing the right to an abortion may soon be overturned.
Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, positions himself as the “common-sense Democrat” of the race. The incumbent Hochul is a centrist Democrat while Williams is a progressive.
During the debate, Suozzi was questioned about an ongoing U.S. House Ethics committee investigation over his failure to file reports on some of his stock transactions as required under federal law. He described it as “a paperwork error” that has been corrected, adding that it was nothing compared to Hochul’s handpicked lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, being arrested on federal corruption charges in April. Hochul, surprised by the arrest, replaced him with former U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado.
One of the overarching storylines of the gubernatorial primaries is crime throughout the state, and how the prospective governor would handle it. Suozzi’s detailed 15-page “crime intervention and prevention” plan is a mixture of law and order in the now, and preventive steps to address systemic inequities and social determinants affecting crime.
“People are leaving because they can’t afford it, because they don’t feel safe and this is an important election because New Yorkers are sick of extremism and arguing on both sides, sick of corruption in Albany and they want people to deliver,” he told Bronx residents during a recent campaign stop. “I can deliver.”
His running mate is New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna.
Wilson, who has previously run for state comptroller, had the sharpest exchanges with Zeldin during the GOP debate.
He dismissed Zeldin as a “failed politician,” and claimed that in January, Zeldin had asked him to be his running mate — a claim denied by Zeldin, who repeatedly assailed Wilson as a “Never Trumper” and a “Republican in name only.”
Wilson, of Johnstown, entered the race this spring by launching a $12 million television advertisement campaign. He’s worked for Goldman Sachs and founded a White Plains advisory firm, and also served as a U.S. Treasury Department advisor under former President Barack Obama.
He touted his business acumen in an interview with PoliticsNY.
“We will rebuild the entire budget from the ground up, as I have done in company after company, focusing on serving the core needs of New Yorkers far better than we do today, while cutting waste and ineffective programs,” he told PoliticsNY.
Days before the debate, Wilson filed a lawsuit against Zeldin alleging campaign finance violations by sidestepping campaign donation limits, which the congressman also denies.
“Lee Zeldin’s flailing campaign is so mismanaged it is out of primary cash and now breaking the law in a desperate bid to stay afloat,” Wilson said.
Williams is the only Democratic primary candidate who will remain on the ballot on a third-party line regardless of how the June election turns out.
He has built a reputation as one of the city’s most progressive elected officials, which earned him the Working Families Party nomination. In 2018 he mounted a strong challenge against Hochul in the lieutenant governor’s race.
The former city councilman said during the debate that he had been working to stop gun violence 10 years ago and said he wished Hochul had been supportive then.
“We are 10 years behind because people in Congress were doing the bidding of the NRA,” he said.
Williams and Suozzi participated in a debate last week in which they criticized Hochul for not participating. Her campaign said she was instead focused on the end of the legislative session.
“There is a movement building in New York,” he told reporters upon winning his nomination in February. “A courageous progressive movement that challenges the powerful — and helps restore that power to the people. A movement I’m proud to be a part of. Because without courageous progressive leadership, the way things have always been will stand in the way of what they can be.”
His running mate is Ana Maria Archila, an advocate who co-founded Make The Road New York.
Zeldin is the only Republican in the race who would also still appear on November ballots if he doesn’t win the primary. He is also running on the Conservative Party line.
During the debate, the Trump ally and an Army veteran who has represented New York’s 1st Congressional District since 2015, touted his support from the National Rifle Association and said he wanted to repeal a 2013 state gun control law that broadened the definition of assault weapons and required universal background checks.
When asked if New York should ban guns from specific public places in case the Supreme Court overturns the state’s concealed carry restrictions, Zeldin said: “Gun-free zones don’t work. They actually become a target.”
In a PoliticsNY interview, he remained hopeful that Republicans can win enough state Senate seats to take back that chamber.
“It’s possible that with a very good night the State Senate will actually flip from Democrat to Republican,” Zeldin told PoliticsNY. A former state lawmaker himself, he said he’d reach across the aisle to find common ground needed to get work done.
“I’ll work with any member of the state Legislature willing to assist the cause,” he said. “I will use the budget process, home rule messages, and many other points of leverage to affect the positive outcomes New Yorkers are demanding.”
His running mate is Allison Esposito, an NYPD deputy inspector who is the state’s first openly gay candidate for lieutenant governor.
~ With Associated Press, Ethan Stark-Miller, Robert Pozarycki and Robbie Sequeira