Stand Down on New York Governor Race? No Way, GOP Hopefuls Say

  • Five Republican candidates want to compete in 2022 primary
  • Donors don’t want to waste their cash, state party chair says

New York Republican Party bosses who’d rather skip an expensive primary in 2022 learned Monday how much persuasion’s needed to reduce the field of hopefuls who want to be Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s replacement.

Five would-be candidates have put themselves forward, and they all said they’re in the race to stay.

“A primary in a state where we’re down so much in enrollment is only going to put us in a position to expend resources we absolutely should not waste them on,” said state Chairman Nick Langworthy, whose party has lost every gubernatorial election since 2006.

Contributors “tell me flat out, ‘“I don’t want to waste our money on primaries and intramural fighting, we need to go defeat the Democrats,’” he said.

The contenders pitched themselves to party leaders at a Monday meeting in Albany. As expected, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin demonstrated that he’ll start the campaign cycle with an advantage among the 62 county chairs.

Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks at a news conference on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians on May 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.

A majority of the chairs named the four-term congressman as their preferred candidate in an internal “weighted vote” survey.

Zeldin had support from counties that provided 85% of the vote in the last general election. The second-place finisher in the survey was former Westchester County Executive and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino, whose backing worked out to 5% of the weighted vote. County chairs representing 10% of the weighted vote expressed no preference.

Though the vote is non-binding, the early party backing could help Zeldin with fundraising and boost his visibility ahead of next year’s party convention.

‘Meaningless’ Poll

To get on the ballot Republican candidates must get 25% of the party’s weighted vote at the convention next year, and the candidate receiving more than 50% is considered the party’s designee.

Astorino issued a statement calling Monday’s straw vote “meaningless.”

“The three million Republicans throughout New York will be deciding who the strongest candidate is in next June’s primary, not a few dozen party insiders, many of whom have told me they were pressured into making an endorsement they weren’t ready to make,” he said.

The other potential candidates, who came up empty in Monday’s test vote, were Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli; and Derrick Gibson, a Queens construction consultant.

“We’re pushing forward on this,” Giuliani told reporters. “I think we’re the favorite.”

Carpinelli said he, too, is pressing on, and people have a right to be heard.

Langworthy said he didn’t expect anyone to concede as a result of the poll, but added that it is indicative of where the party stands. “This is the same jury they will face in February/March,” Langworthy said. “I don’t expect a much different outcome.”

Differing Perspectives

“There’s a difference between what might be good for a party and its brand, and what might be good for individual candidates,” said Larry Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

“In a race as high profile as a New York governorship, almost any credible candidate is going to attract money,” Levy said. “And the better known they are, and the better they perform, the more money they’re going to be able to attract.”

Whoever wins the nomination has a Gotham-sized sales job ahead. More than half of New York’s 13.4 million voters are registered Democrats, compared with about 2.9 million registered Republicans, according to state Board of Elections data released in February.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he’s running for a fourth term, though he, too, has challenges, including an impeachment investigation, a federal probe into his administration’s response to Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, and an investigation into several allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.

Cuomo has denied all allegations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at kclukey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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