File photo: Denise Civiletti

Rep. Lee Zeldin won the Republican nomination for governor in Tuesday’s primary election, cruising to victory with more than 44% of the vote cast in a field of four contenders.

Zeldin, who also has the Conservative party line, will face Gov. Kathy Hochul in the general election. The incumbent Democrat dominated in a three-way race for her party’s nomination with 68% of the votes cast.

“Are we ready to fire Kathy Hochul? This November in the State of New York, one-party rule will end. Kathy Hochul will get fired,” Zeldin told a crowd of jubilant supporters last night at a catering hall in Baldwin.

Zeldin, whose campaign theme has been “Save Our State,” blasted one-party rule and attacked Hochul and the Democratic Party for high taxes, crime and the state’s population decline.

“We will secure our streets. We will make New York more affordable again. We will fight for our kids and our schools. We will fight to preserve freedom. We want our families to stay here and be strong,” Zeldin said.

“We are fighting for our state. We are fighting for our country and our future,” he told the cheering crowd. “Because losing this race for us is not an option. Winning this race and firing Kathy Hochul is the only option in order to restore New York to glory. We will restore balance. We will restore common sense. And on Nov. 8, we will be celebrating a a hard-fought win for the future of New York,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin, 42, has served four terms in the House of Representatives, representing New York’s First Congressional District. Prior to defeating Democratic incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop in 2014, he served two terms in the New York State Senate.

He is a lawyer, Army veteran and active reservist. He grew up in Shirley, where he lives with his wife Diana and their twin daughters, Arianna and Mikayla.

The Shirley Republican launched his campaign for governor in April 2021 and by the end of June last year had won the favor of a majority of county Republican committees in a statewide straw poll conducted by party leadership.

Zeldin seeks to be the first Republican elected to statewide office since Gov. George Pataki was elected to a third term in 2002. It will be an uphill battle. Democrats have a two-to-one voter enrollment advantage in the state and he faces an incumbent who has already raised more than $34 million in for her campaign.

In the party primary, Zeldin faced a challenge for the GOP nomination by three candidates, including Andrew Giuliani, a Trump administration official and son of the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, longtime friend and personal attorney of former President Donald Trump. Giuliani finished with 23% of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

Zeldin, a loyal Trump supporter, was a member of the former president’s defense team in his first impeachment trial. He supported Republican Party efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and was one of 106 House Republicans to sign on to the Texas lawsuit seeking to delay the certification of presidential electors in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Along with a large majority of House Republicans, he 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.

In his fiery victory speech last night, Zeldin didn’t mention the former president or the 2020 election. He plugged Republican candidates for N.Y. attorney general, state comptroller, and local congressional races, pledging what he called “a top down, bottom up” approach to elect Republicans across the state in November.

Zeldin’s decision to run for governor created a vacancy in the First Congressional District. Democrats have gotten behind County Legislator Bridget Fleming. Republicans will pick their candidate in the August primary election, where party designee Nick LaLota of Amityville, currently faces a challenge by five other candidates.

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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.