Zeldin: ‘Proud to be my own man’
PLATTSBURGH — On the question of how his party’s connection and his own alliance with former President Donald Trump may affect his campaign in a blue state, Republican Congressman and presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin insists he is his own man.
“Every single time that I’ve run for office since I first won a seat in the State Senate in 2010, people have asked me, ‘Are you a this type of Republican or a that type of Republican? Are you a Tea Party Republican or a Pete King Republican? Are you a Ted Cruz Republican or a John Boehner Republican?'” the Long Islander told the Press-Republican Monday.
“Every two years I get this and, for people who know me well, they realize that I have my own positions and beliefs on issues. I’m proud to be my own man and I believe that our state can be restored to glory, but not without changing who we’re sending to Albany right now.”
North Country visit
Zeldin, 41, spent the last weekend on another tour of the North Country, which included stops in Lake Placid and an equine center in Franklin County, as well as lunch with Clinton County Republican Committee Chair Clark Currier and his wife, County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Jodi Currier, at Penny’s Homestyle Cooking in Plattsburgh. Clark said Zeldin’s wife, Diana, and twin daughters, Mikayla and Arianna, were also present.
In addition to praising Zeldin as “an impressive character” and “a nice, honest family man,” Clark pointed to the Army Reserve lieutenant colonel’s fundraising chops.
The visit came on the heels of the news that, in the first three months of his campaign, Zeldin raised more than $4 million, outpacing the $2.3 million Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought in over the last six months.
A recent straw poll gave Zeldin 85% of the weighted vote among county Republican leaders around the state. Others currently vying to be on the GOP ticket include former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli and Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Clark said such an early endorsement — which the Clinton County GOP is withholding until the committee can meet Zeldin in person — was made for the purpose of building up a war chest against Cuomo or whoever the Democratic gubernatorial candidate turns out to be.
Done with Cuomo
Zeldin said he has heard about several issues in his discussions with voters, including how they are done with Cuomo.
“They seem to have an energy level to them as if they’re ready to go vote tomorrow; they don’t even want to have to wait 16 more months.”
He said people also feel they do not have a voice in Albany with a New York City-centric state legislature.
Zeldin also noted small businesses’ concerns about getting enough workers, and a desire to better support law enforcement and repeal bail reform.
The congressman also discussed his stance on correctional facilities and the U.S.-Canada border.
Zeldin argued that putting forth a budget that threatens to close prisons is a “sick strategy” used by Cuomo to force a state legislator to expend all their bandwidth in negotiations trying to keep a facility open when they should be advocating for their community.
“I would not play that game of putting out an executive budget that instills fear in communities all across upstate that their prison might be on the chopping block next,” he said.
Zeldin added that he does not believe politics should impact prison populations and how prosecutors charge defendants.
Regarding the border, Zeldin believes the governor should be applying pressure on the Biden administration for action. The boundary was closed to nonessential travel in March 2020 with the intent of containing the coronavirus. Canada announced Monday that fully vaccinated U.S. citizens may begin crossing at land ports of entry again beginning Aug. 9.
Zeldin said everyone needs to go all in on getting more commerce and movement across the border, and noted impacts on communities and seasonal businesses who rely on summer tourism.
“The economic cost of this inaction is devastating for local communities, small businesses and families.”
Apply to everybody
Zeldin said New Yorkers “of all walks of life” have spoken with him about cost of living and other factors making them consider leaving the state, such as public safety and the quality of their children’s education.
“These aren’t issues that matter to just Republicans or just Democrats or unaffiliated voters. They apply to everybody.”
Zeldin said these voters feel “one-party Democratic rule in Albany” is not the balance needed, and that people who are Democrats feel their party has left them.
“The status quo in Albany is a massive imbalance and I believe that there should be geographic balance in Albany and political balance in Albany.”
Zeldin said he has heard from Democratic parents who do not want their kids’ return to school conditioned on them being vaccinated against COVID-19, and that many people “don’t want their kids to be forced to wear a mask all day long.”
Zeldin said Cuomo has been in office too long, noting his support for term limits for the office of governor.
“I don’t believe he should have been allowed to run for a third term let alone a fourth term,” he continued.
“I would self-term limit myself to two terms, even if the state legislature doesn’t term limit me, which I would ask them to do. You get into the office, you bring your ideas, your energy, you try to make a difference and move on.”