Published On: Wed, Jun 29th, 2022

Does Lee Zeldin Stand a Chance Against Kathy Hochul?

After being counted out last year, Republicans flipped the governor’s mansion in Virginia and came extremely close in New Jersey, where Democrat Phil Murphy barely won a second term. This fall, the political environment is expected to be dismal for Democrats of all ideological stripes, even with the repeal of Roe v. Wade potentially firing up the Democratic base. Inflation is stubbornly high with the average price of gas hovering around $5 a gallon. Joe Biden remains very unpopular. Fear of crime is rampant in Democratic big cities and Republican-run suburbs alike.

At least that is the hope for Lee Zeldin, the Long Island representative who won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday. He will face off against Governor Kathy Hochul, who easily dispatched her Democratic rivals on the same night, and is aiming to pull in north of $50 million for the fall. Like recent Republican contenders, he will face incredibly long odds in a state that has a hefty Democratic registration advantage and a history of rejecting those who have aligned themselves with the right-wing national party.

Zeldin’s close alliance with Donald Trump — he voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election and defended the Capitol insurrection — is almost certainly going to cost him with Democrats and independents. Like other Republicans, Zeldin has already celebrated the overturning of Roe. Abortion rights, codified into the State Constitution in 2019, may be largely settled in New York, but Hochul and her labor allies are preparing to unleash a blitz of advertising against Zeldin, warning voters that the hard-right congressman could replicate Trump in the governor’s mansion. “Kathy Hochul is going to make this election a referendum on Lee Zeldin or any of the MAGA Republicans’ connections to Trump and their out-of-step views on abortion, and that is going to make it very hard for a Republican to mount an effective campaign,” says a Democratic operative unaffiliated with Hochul. “Zeldin being pushed in the primary has unquestionably hurt him because he’s been forced to let his MAGA flag fly when he would have rather tried to hide it.”

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