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Can Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin Beat Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2022?

Can Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin Beat Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2022?
(Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 02 March 2021 12:14 PM Current | Bio | Archive

New York’s nursing home scandal and allegations of bullying and sexual harassment have wounded Democratic Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. However, merely wounding this ruthless political animal is not enough to push him off the political stage.

Only a federal indictment could kill Cuomo politically.

In the meantime, the governor will tough it out to seek, what eluded his father, election to a fourth term.

In 2022, Cuomo will probably face a primary challenge from the radical wing of his party.

Previous attempts to snatch the nomination from him have failed. The 2014 challenger, Zephyr Teachout, received 33% of the vote and actress Cynthia Nixon garnered 35% in 2018.

Can a far-left challenger beat Cuomo? I doubt it.

The key Democratic constituency that goes to the polls on primary day are members of government unions. And throughout the shutdown, Cuomo has protected them.

While hundreds of thousands of private-sector workers lost their jobs, there were very few layoffs of government workers.

If union members stick with Cuomo, he will not lose the Democratic primary.

But the general election could be different. It might just be possible for a well-financed competent Republican to be elected governor with a plurality of votes.

Remember, in times of fiscal and economic crises, even the bluest of states—Massachusetts, Maryland, California—have elected fiscally-conservative Republican governors to bail them out.

Let’s face it, fiscally, economically and socially, New York is a mess.

Ever increasing taxes and spending, the destruction of small businesses, increasing crime and declining education standards, have angered plenty of voters.

And after 12 years in office, there could be voter fatigue with Cuomo. 

In 1994, when Mario Cuomo sought a fourth term, Jacob Weisberg predicted in "New York" magazine that Cuomo would lose because "there is a deep sense of weariness with Cuomo, a feeling of anger, even betrayal."

That mood opened the door for an "ABC"—Anybody But Cuomo—campaign that elected an unknown and drab Republican state senator—George Elmer Pataki.

One Republican who might be able to knock off Andrew Cuomo in 2022, is Congressman Lee Zeldin of Suffolk County.

Born and bred on Long Island, Zeldin spent four years in the Army on active duty, served in Iraq, and is in the Army Reserves. In his first run for office in 2008, he lost to Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop. Two years later, he was elected to the State Senate. He took on Bishop again in 2014, and won 54% to 46%.

A prime target of the Democrats, he beat back well-financed challengers in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

As the Republican-Conservative candidate for governor in 2022, Zeldin would fight an uphill battle, but there is a roadmap to victory if everything breaks his way.

To win, Zeldin must build on the 38% statewide Republican-Conservative base votes.

Zeldin’s military record and experience in Albany and Washington will work in his favor. The fact that he is Jewish could help him make inroads with New York City’s middle-class Jewish voters disgusted with Governor Cuomo’s and Mayor DeBlasio’s failed policies.

Zeldin must carry Long Island. Despite Democratic inroads in recent years, this is doable. If the 700,000 people who voted for Trump from Nassau and Suffolk come out, he will carry Long Island.

As for New York City: In 2017, the Republican-Conservative mayoral candidate, Nicole Mallitokakis, received 27.8% of votes cast, and in 2020, Trump’s total was 28.9%. If Zeldin can maintain that support—that’s a victory. (Pataki was elected statewide in 1994 while receiving 27% of the City’s votes.)

Zeldin will win upstate as Cuomo’s opponents did in 2014 and 2018. But his margin will have to match the 60% level of support Pataki received in 1994. This too can be achieved if the pro-fracking, pro-gun, and pro-Trump voters come out in droves.

Then there is the battleground county that will decide the election, affluent Westchester. In recent election cycles, Westchester has trended blue. The base GOP vote of this once red bastion is around 33%.

To win statewide, a Republican must carry Westchester by at least a plurality. Is it possible? Yes, if enough people are sick of paying the highest combined state and local taxes in the nation, and are appalled by Cuomo’s mishandling of the COVID pandemic.

Finally, there’s the wild card, the Working Families Party (WFP). Its members despise Cuomo for not being a socialist and for changing election laws aimed at putting them out of business.

Cuomo’s plot failed. WFP’s total votes for Joe Biden hit a record 4.5%—twice the amount needed to maintain its spot on the ballot.

If the WFP rejects Cuomo and runs a candidate against him, votes cast by disgruntled leftists could hit 5% to 6%.

If that were to happen, Lee Zeldin would need about 47% of the vote to win the election.

In a Republican political tsunami—similar to 1994 when the elder Cuomo went down—Lee Zeldin could be elected New York’s 57th governor in 2022.

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." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.

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New York's nursing home scandal and allegations of bullying and sexual harassment have wounded the Democratic Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. However, merely wounding this ruthless political animal is not enough to push him off the political stage.Only a Federal indictment could...
newyork, election, gubernatorial, hotseat
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2021-14-02
Tuesday, 02 March 2021 12:14 PM
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