Congressman Lee Zeldin may have lost his quest to become New York’s 58th governor, but the electoral inroads he made had coattails that will have an impact on the nation and the state for years to come.
On Election Day Zeldin received an impressive 47.2% of the vote.
That’s the highest percentage a Republican candidate challenging an incumbent governor has received in 28 years.
When George Pataki toppled then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994, he won with only a 49% plurality.
In more recent gubernatorial races, Republicans fared poorly at the ballot box: Carl Palladino, 33% in 2010; Rob Astorino, 40% in 2014; and in 2018, Marc Molinaro garnered 36% of the vote.
When Zeldin announced his candidacy 18 months ago, he knew he had a tough fight on his hands. After all, New York is deep Blue. Every statewide office was held by Democrats and both houses of the state Legislature had super Democratic majorities.
And just six months before he jumped into the race, New Yorkers resoundingly rejected Donald Trump, and Democrats flipped two GOP congressional seats.
But these daunting facts did not stop Zeldin.
He sensed a simmering discontent among voters from every walk of life with the tax-and-spend policies of progressives who controlled the levers of the state government.
Then there was the crime issue.
Democrats who championed cashless bail laws, lax enforcement of criminal codes and prison depopulation, triggered a surge in crime that New Yorkers had not experienced for decades.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., also played into Zeldin’s hands.
The tin-eared, accidental governor who feared the extremists in her party, defended cashless bail and actually questioned why the crime issue was so important in a televised debate.
Zeldin "fought the good fight" but fell short in the closely contested election.
His hard work, however, helped Republicans throughout the state make it over the finish line on Nov. 8.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic cohorts were shocked to learn that the Republican New York congressional delegation not only held on to their seats but made significant gains.
As I am writing this essay, the GOP congressional total in New York will increase by at least four. There could be one or two additional pick-ups after all the votes are tallied.
All these victories were in districts carried by Zeldin.
The only other state the GOP picked up four Democratic House seats was Florida — where Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., won in a record-breaking landslide.
The most satisfying N.Y. congressional Republican victory was in the Hudson Valley region.
A local assemblyman, Michael Lawler, toppled Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, the smug chairman of the National Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
It has been 40 years since the person who held that job was booted out of office.
In Nassau County, two House seats that were Democratic for decades flipped.
All four Long Island seats on now Red.
Also, in the New York State Senate races, the GOP picked up enough seats to end the Democrat’s super-majority hold on that chamber.
Prior to the election Republicans on Zeldin’s home turf, Long Island, held only three of its nine senate seats.
On Jan. 1, 2023, that number will be at least seven and possibly eight.
Even the U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, had a lousy election night.
Six years ago, Schumer received a record-breaking 71% of the vote.
Since 1918, when U.S. senators were first chosen in New York by the electorate, not one candidate, Democrat or Republican, came close to matching that number.
This year, however, only 55.6% of the electorate supported Schumer.
That’s the lowest percentage he has received since he toppled incumbent Republican senator, Al D’Amato, in 1998.
Schumer’s Republican-Conservative opponent, Joe Pinion, who ran a shoestring campaign, carried 43 of New York’s 63 counties including Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk, the state’s most populated suburban region.
Republicans owe Lee Zeldin a huge debt of gratitude.
Thanks to his gubernatorial candidacy, New York’s expanded GOP congressional delegation will provide the votes that give Republicans the majority control needed to elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker of the House in January.
As for as the Empire State’s future, if Albany Democrats don’t catch on that close to a majority of voters rejected their policies, New Yorkers will continue voting with their feet and move to states like Florida where people are not oppressed by radical progressives.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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