Rep. Lee Zeldin prevailed in New York’s Republican gubernatorial primary and will now face Gov. Kathy Hochul, who won the Democratic primary, in November.
Ms. Hochul cruised to a victory called by the Associated Press within 35 minutes of the polls closing, with 20% of the primary vote reporting. She defeated New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams and Rep. Tom Suozzi at around 9:30 p.m. local time.
The Associated Press declared Mr. Zeldin the winner with 47% of the primary vote reporting, over Andrew Giuliani and and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino at around 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Mr. Zeldin has an uphill battle in New York. The party has not held the governor’s mansion in New York since George E. Pataki won two terms between 1995 and 2006, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the state by a two-to-one margin.
A recent May Siena College poll found that almost one-fourth of the 13 million voters in the state, about 3 million, are not affiliated with a political party, slightly more than New York’s 2.84 million registered Republicans.
And 62% of those independent voters say the state is on the wrong track, according to the survey.
Still, New York Democrats have a massive advantage with 6.47 million registered voters, according to the state Board of Elections.
Mr. Zeldin, a congressman who has represented eastern Long Island since 2015, has been campaigning around the state for 14 months as the state party’s favored candidate.
Mr. Giuliani was better known, being the son of New York’s famous former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The younger Mr. Giuliani also worked as an aide in former President Trump’s White House and later as a commentator on the TV network Newsmax.
Mr. Zeldin launched his campaign in April 2021, Mr. Giuliani and former two-term Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced their campaigns in May.
Mr. Zeldin’s and Mr. Giuliani’s campaign launches happened as then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, was at his political weakest.
Although each Republican took swipes at one another for the next eight months over who was more conservative or loyal to Mr. Trump, both prepared to take on Mr. Cuomo.
They called him out over how he responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s rising crime rate, and they piled on as he faced mounting criticism from both sides of the aisle about sexual harassment accusations from women that were investigated by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
By November, Mr. Cuomo had resigned from office in disgrace and both Republicans needed to re-position their campaign messaging to target a different Democrat after Ms. Hochul, who had been Mr. Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, was sworn in as New York’s first female governor in August 2021.
Ms. Hochul, a former one-term member of Congress, tapped then-State Sen. Brian Benjamin to be her lieutenant governor that month, and Mr. Benjamin was sworn in Sept. 9, 2021, but his term did not last very long.
By this April, he resigned in disgrace after being ensnared in a bribery scandal and was charged by authorities on multiple counts for alleged illegal fundraising actions, while he was a lawmaker in Albany. Mr. Benjamin pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
The scandal left Ms. Hochul without a lieutenant governor and running mate to go up against her own primary challengers, Mr. Williams and Mr. Suozzi, who represents New York’s 3rd District.
However, Mr. Benjamin’s scandal provided plenty of campaign fodder for both Mr. Williams and Mr. Suozzi to use against Ms. Hochul, as she and the Democratic majority state legislature passed bills to change the election rules, so Mr. Benjamin’s name would not be on the primary ballot this month.
Ultimately, Ms. Hochul tapped Rep. Antonio Delgado, a former two-term member of Congress, to be her new lieutenant governor and running mate to go up against progressive activist Ana Maria Archila, who was Mr. Williams’ running mate, and former New York City Council Member Diana Reyna, who was running with Mr. Suozzi.
Around this time, the Republican gubernatorial primary field had grown, and Mr. Zeldin, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Astorino were contending with businessman Harry Wilson, a candidate who joined the Republican primary in February - a week before Republicans gathered in Garden City to establish their preferred slate of candidates at their convention.
Earlier in the month all four of the GOP primary candidates faced off in a debate. Mr. Giuliani was barred from participating in person for refusing to submit proof he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19.