Rep. Lee Zeldin is the GOP 'presumptive gubernatorial nominee' after a statewide straw poll of party leaders conducted June 28. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Rep. Lee Zeldin is the “presumed gubernatorial nominee,” the New York State Republican Party chairman announced after a GOP straw poll yesterday of Republican county chairpersons.

The straw poll gave Zeldin 85% of the weighted vote. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino won the vote of his county party chair, which accounts for 5% of the vote, according to results announced by GOP Party Chairperson Nick Langworthy. Andrew Giuliani did not gain a vote.

Ten county chairs abstained from picking a favorite candidate, including county GOP leaders in New York, Bronx, Rockland and seven upstate counties. Zeldin has criss-crossed the state, meeting with voters and party leaders in all 62 counties.

The straw poll is not the party’s nomination. The party’s nominating convention will take place in February.

Astorino, the party’s candidate for governor in 2014, called yesterday’s straw poll “meaningless” and is expected to continue his campaign and run a primary for the Republican nomination should party leaders designate someone else.

“The voters, not the party insiders will decide who the GOP candidate is in next June’s primary,” Astorino said in a tweet.

“The early straw poll is meaningless and eventually I’ll be the straw that breaks Cuomo’s back next November, and the one who’ll rescue and rebuild our state,” he said.

Zeldin said in a statement the straw poll result demonstrates he’s “built a groundswell of support inside and outside of politics from every corner of our state.”

Zeldin, 41, of Shirley, is a former state senator who was first elected to the House of Representatives from New York’s First Congressional District in 2014.

The four-term congressman has been a loyal backer of former President Donald Trump and a frequent guest on Fox News, garnering national name recognition. He was selected by Trump to be part of his defense team during the first impeachment trial.

Zeldin has supported Republican Party efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election results. He was one of 106 House Republicans who signed on to a Texas lawsuit against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin that sought to delay the certification of presidential electors. The U.S. Supreme Court in December ruled that Texas lacked standing and dismissed the suit.

Zeldin, along with a large majority of House Republicans, also voted on Jan. 7 against certifying presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, the two states that were subject to objections supported by members of both the House and Senate.

Zeldin had also supported objections to certifying the results of Georgia and Wisconsin, but only Arizona and Pennsylvania were put to a vote because the other states lacked objectors in the Senate.

He has attacked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular his administration’s controversial policies for long-term care facilities. Zeldin has also called on the three-term governor to resign following a series of allegations of sexual harassment that have plagued the governor this year, along with revelations about the governor’s alleged withholding from state lawmakers and the public information and data about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes across the state. Cuomo has said he intends to seek a fourth term as governor despite these controversies and scandals and the ensuing investigations.

“For so many New Yorkers, this is a last chance to save our state, to return New York from the brink and restore it to glory,” Zeldin said yesterday. “Today’s vote underscores that the Republican Party is united in this mission, and in November 2022, we will win because we have to win,” he said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.