Featured Story

Suffolk Closeup: Long Island congressmen running for governor

Two of the three members of the House of Representatives who represent Suffolk County are intending to leave their House seats for runs to be the governor of New York State.

Will either Lee Zeldin or Tom Suozzi make it to Albany?

Republican Zeldin will certainly get the GOP designation.

Having announced in April last year that he was running for governor, he’s been actively criss-crossing the state ever since. And as early as June, the New York Post reported: “New York State Republican Party leaders anointed Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin as their presumptive nominee for governor following a straw poll in which an overwhelming 85% of county leaders said they backed Zeldin, while only 5% preferred former Westchester County Executive and 2014 [Republican] gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.”

In reaction, Zeldin said: “Since announcing our candidacy for governor, together we’ve built a groundswell of support inside and outside of politics from every corner of our state.”

But what about the general election in a state in which Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters two-to-one and Zeldin is well-known as a big cheerleader for Donald Trump?

The heading of an editorial in the Oneonta Star: “GOP can offer more than just Trump acolytes.” It described Zeldin as a “hardcore Trump loyalist” and declared: “As one of those who voted to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden based on Trump’s Big Lie, Zeldin would be a non-starter for most New York voters and would face a withering barrage of attacks from Democrats for his role in the deadly insurrection — as well he should.”

Downstate, Katie Glueck in The New York Times wrote that “any Republican, especially one closely tied to Mr. Trump, would face an extraordinarily uphill battle running statewide in New York. And there is no doubt about how deeply Mr. Zeldin has embraced Mr. Trump and his politics, including by voting to overturn the results of the November election, a stance that would instantly disqualify him in the eyes of many voters should he make it to a general election.”

“As a radical right-wing member of the Republican Party, he just has no broad-based appeal in a state like New York,” State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs has said.

Zeldin, an attorney from Shirley, was a New York state senator between 2011 and 2014 when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He represents the lst Congressional District, which includes all of the Town of Brookhaven, most of Smithtown, a slice of Islip and all five East End towns, including Shelter Island.

Elections to all House seats and the one for New York governor happen this year, so Zeldin needs to forget about a House re-election bid if he is the candidate for governor.

So would Democrat Tom Suozzi.

Mr. Suozzi is a two-term House member who was Nassau County executive from 2002 to 2009. An attorney and CPA from Glen Cove, he has a reputation as a reformer — he created in 2004, for example, FixAlbany.com. He represents the 3rd C.D., which includes northwestern Suffolk including Huntington, Northport and Commack, and to their west a broad swath of northern Nassau and Queens counties.

In November he announced he’s running for governor as a “common-sense Democrat,” but, as Chris Sommerfeldt noted in the New York Daily News, Gov. Kathy Hochul has a “similarly centrist campaign platform.”

She replaced Andrew Cuomo after his resignation, becoming the first woman governor in New York State history. Also, she’s the first Upstater who has been the state’s governor, according to the Democrat & Chronicle of Rochester, since Nathan Miller of Cortland County, governor between 1921 and 1922 — 100 years ago! Ms. Hochul, an attorney, is from Hamburg, 14 miles south of Buffalo.

She was on the Hamburg Town Board, was Erie County clerk, served in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013 and was lieutenant governor from 2015 until becoming governor in 2021.

Ms. Hochul has been highly active as governor, getting around and speaking out and receiving major press coverage. She’s done well in Democratic polls and fundraising. Democrats Letitia James, the New York attorney general, and former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have dropped out of running for governor.

Jay Jacobs has endorsed Hochul and is concerned about primaries drawing from “precious resources” and “making us weaker in a year where we need to be strongest.”

Also, there is concern among Democrats that without incumbent Suozzi, the 3rd C.D. will be vulnerable to the GOP and a loss might lead to Democrats losing their House majority in elections this year. Still, Suozzi has stayed in the gubernatorial contest and just released his first TV ad.