Talk of Trump hovers over gubernatorial race | News, Sports, Jobs
ALBANY – He no longer holds public office and he no longer lives in New York. Yet former President Donald Trump is attracting a lot of attention in the gubernatorial race.
Some of them were invited by Trump, who hosted a Labor Day weekend fundraiser for the campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman and outsider in his quest to become New York’s next GM.
But sensing that Zeldin’s past support for Trump is a liability for the Republican in one of the nation’s bluest states, Governor Kathy Hochul and her campaign team have worked overtime to cast Zeldin as an extremist who has voted in January 2021 against certification of election results.
“People in New York understand our values and Donald Trump has never represented them and will never represent them, and to the extent that my political opponent wants to be so closely associated and rely on him for resources, that’s troubling,” he added. Hochul told reporters in New York last week.
Zeldin has brushed off the attacks, though Hochul has dramatically increased the funds he has in his war chest, limiting his ability to respond to the deluge of TV ads now deployed against his campaign.
He says he talks about the issues he thinks New Yorkers care about — such as the impacts of inflation, the state’s business climate and public safety.
“Kathy Hochul can run as many ads as she wants about Donald Trump and ‘orange man bad,’ Zeldin said, mocking a derogatory phrase used by Trump critics.”But we focus on the breaking point of the New York individual, of the family, of the New York business, of the New York community that is dying right now.
Will voters be persuaded that Zeldin is unfit because of his past support for Trump? Saranac Lake resident Raymond Scollin, a member of the state’s Republican Party executive committee, doesn’t think so.
“Trump plays no role in this election for me” said Scolin. “Which is like saying, do you want Lee Zeldin in the Governor’s mansion, or do you want Kathy Hochul?” For me, I look at what she’s done with the second amendment (supporting additional gun license warrants), the exodus out of New York State, and taxes, and it’s obvious that Zeldin would make a much better governor.
Zeldin has argued that he can win the election if he can just garner 29% of the vote in the state’s largest population center – New York, which has been the traditional base of the Democratic Party in the state. Democrats also tend to be strong in other major cities — Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Yonkers, said longtime Democratic consultant George Arzt.
“Trump is an inescapable problem for New York and major cities in the state,” said Arzt.
While Trump’s star power has helped raise much-needed checks for the Zeldin campaign, the former president’s involvement in the race takes the form of a “double-edged sword” for the challenger from Hochul, Arzt said.
“There’s no one on the Republican side who can make money like Donald Trump,” said Arzt.“But it’s becoming more of a weapon for Democrats than for Republicans, who desperately need dollars.”
Hochul’s campaign has grossed more than $34 million after her nomination as governor following the resignation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo in August 2021. As governor, she can also travel to all regions of state on state planes, as as long as public business is conducted on these trips, she has been to New York often in recent weeks. “That’s where the voters are” Arzt observed.
Vincent Casale, a GOP campaign strategist from Cooperstown, said Zeldin needed to keep his political base energized ahead of the Nov. 8 election while raising enough funds to get his message out across the state.
“The big question mark now is how embracing Trump plays for independents (voters who are not affiliated with a political party) and plays for middle voters,” said Casale.
As for the Democratic message, Judith Hunter, president of the New York State Rural Democratic Conference, said her party has several valid reasons to remind voters of Zeldin’s association with Trump.
Past President Hunter said, “Try to be the leader of his party by entering primaries everywhere. It’s not like he’s taken a quiet retirement.
“Zeldin has always been zealous in supporting Trump during impeachments,” said Hunter. “He’s trying to slow down now, but he was there as much as anyone else in Congress in support of Trump, and he voted to throw out the votes of millions of Americans.” when Congress was asked to certify election results after current President Joe Biden won in November 2020.
“So, no, he’s not getting a pass”, said Hunter.
The focus on Trump in the current round comes four years after New York Democrats used a similar playbook in attacks on GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro, who ended up being defeated by Cuomo.
The Cuomo campaign called Molinaro a “Trump mini-me,” mocking the height of the Republican candidate. Molinaro, who is 5ft 8in, had never expressed support for Trump and revealed he did not vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.