New York GOP backs Zeldin for governor

New York GOP backs Zeldin for governor
© Greg Nash

New York Republican officials voted Monday to name Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Republicans hit Biden over Afghanistan, with eye on midterms McCarthy: 'There will be a day of reckoning' for Biden MORE (R) as the party’s presumptive gubernatorial nominee in an early test of establishment strength ahead of a primary to come next year.

Meeting in Albany, the chairs of county Republican Party organizations gave Zeldin 85 percent of the vote, an expected result as top New York Republicans rallied around the Long Island congressman.

Former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino (R) took 5 percent, and 10 percent of county officials abstained. Andrew Giuliani, the son of the former New York City mayor, did not receive any votes.

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The result means that Zeldin will carry an honorary label ahead of next year’s primary election, though the state Republican Party’s hopes of avoiding what is likely to be a costly primary appear slim. Astorino has signaled he still intends to compete next year, and Giuliani has shown no signs of dropping out.

“The three million Republicans throughout New York will be deciding who the strongest candidate is in next June’s primary, not a few dozen party insiders, many of whom have told me they were pressured into making an endorsement they weren’t ready to make,” Astorino said in a statement. He called the vote “meaningless.”

The winner of the GOP nomination will face an uphill test in a state that has not elected a Republican since George Pataki won a third term in 2002. President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE claimed 61 percent of the vote there in 2020.

But Republicans are more optimistic than usual, given the series of scandals swirling around Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoLetitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' MORE (D). The Democratic-controlled Assembly has opened an inquiry into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and several women have accused the three-term governor of inappropriate behavior.

Cuomo has said he will seek a fourth term, but many New York Democrats expect Attorney General Letitia James (D) to run as well.