Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) speaks at a press conference...

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) speaks at a press conference in Manorville on Jan. 25. Credit: Randee Daddona

Daily Point

Now that Zeldin's running, what’s next?

Here are some key moments to watch now that Lee Zeldin has thrown his hat in the ring for governor:

April 19 is the state GOP’s in-person meeting with county chairs in Albany. Prospective candidates for statewide office have been invited, said party spokeswoman Jess Proud, including Zeldin and other potential or rumored hopefuls Rob Astorino, Marc Molinaro, Elise Stefanik, and Andrew Giuliani.

Proud said that’s just "the start of the process" but there’s a "strong appetite to avoid a primary," and we could see more county chair endorsements come out after that meeting.

Coalescing behind a gubernatorial candidate might not happen overnight, Proud said, but "maybe by the end of the summer" to leave time for fundraising.

Then there’s the party’s convention next year at a to-be-determined date. Proud said that if a candidate gets 25% of the weighted vote at the convention, he or she doesn’t have to gather signatures — they get a ballot line automatically. Over 50% and you’re considered the party designee.

Sometime next year Zeldin will also have to make a decision about letting go of his congressional seat.

"If he lost the nomination at the convention, he could submit a statewide petition for governor or congress or both," said State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin in an email, "but he would have to decline one at the time it was submitted otherwise the second filed petition would be invalid."

It’s a key deadline because after that, it would be difficult for Zeldin to drop off the state ballot and run again for his congressional seat, party leaders say.

Jesse Garcia, Suffolk County GOP chair, said that he has already begun the process of speaking to and gauging the interest of "various individuals" about running in CD1.

Democratic State Party Chair Jay Jacobs said that "politically, [Zeldin] is making a smart move." Saying you’re running for governor now "doesn’t necessitate you actually do run for governor later."

Even if Zeldin does drop out before the deadline months from now, it provides a lot of "attention" and "notoriety" in the party, Jacobs said.

But Jacobs, naturally, threw cold water on the idea of Zeldin winning, arguing that you have to win some Democrats, lose no Republicans, and win the majority of unaffiliated voters to claim gubernatorial victory as a Republican in New York. That roadmap has worked in the past for someone like George Pataki, but Jacobs thinks it won’t for Donald Trump-ally Zeldin.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Zeldin site steers campaign supporters to auto-donate

Those excited about Lee Zeldin’s gubernatorial bid might accidentally be donating more on his campaign website than they planned.

As of Thursday afternoon, the WinRed fundraising tool on the Shirley Republican’s site included a pre-checked box saying, "Make this a monthly recurring donation." Not all GOP House members use the controversial approach.

Another pre-checked box asked supporters to "PLEDGE TO DONATE TO OUR FIRE CUOMO MONEY BOMB!" with the cryptic additional disclaimer, "Donate an additional automatically on 4/30."

The pre-checked box is an old trick but one that came under scrutiny this weekend with a New York Times story about President Donald Trump’s repeated use of the tactic during the 2020 campaign, including extremely fine-print disclaimers that supporters sometimes missed.

The National Republican Congressional Committee still has its own version warning supporters they would be a "DEFECTOR" if they opted out.

It’s possible to use the WinRed fundraising platform and perhaps not fool someone into making a recurring monthly donation: The campaign website donation tool for Zeldin’s fellow Long Island Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino asks supporters to make a recurring donation but does not pre-check the box. Upstate Rep. Elise Stefanik, Zeldin’s peer on the Trump-supporting national stage, lets supporters check the monthly box themselves, when The Point tested the WinRed donation tool on her website on Thursday.

WinRed is a for-profit company and told The Times that there were safeguards with the recurring donations, like a follow-up email.

Why risk the ire of supporters with the pre-checked boxes? Zeldin’s campaign didn’t respond to The Point’s questions about the boxes. But perhaps the psychological nudge could urge someone on the fence to become a repeat donor — and because the box is highlighted in yellow it stands out a bit from the page.

Someone who still didn’t notice the button might end up not caring, allowing the money to keep flowing. Others might get annoyed and demand a refund — but even that could have possible benefits for Zeldin at a crucial early stage when the candidate wants to post big fundraising numbers and clear the field of any other primary contenders.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Behind the times

Mike Luckovich

Mike Luckovich

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Final Point

House campaign committees target incumbents

Target lists from the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign arms often need to be taken with a grain of salt: Sometimes it’s helpful to call a district "in play" if you’re trying to gin up attention and fundraising.

A few lists have come out at around the same time this spring, and it's possible to do a little triangulation to see which New Yorkers are being targeted or sheltered by both sides.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for example, has released a "Frontline" program meant to protect Democratic incumbents, which can be matched up with the National Republican Congressional Committee’s list of "pick-up opportunities" for 2022.

While the GOP says the New Yorkers they want to topple are Reps. Antonio Delgado, Sean Patrick Maloney and Tom Suozzi, Delgado is the only New Yorker in the Democrats’ Frontline program.

That might suggest more actual vulnerability for Delgado, a Schenectady Democrat who beat Republican John Faso in a Trump-friendly district in 2018, than for Suozzi.

The Democrats’ offensive "Districts In Play" list of Republican-held or open battlegrounds includes New Yorkers Andrew Garbarino, Claudia Tenney, and John Katko.

Garbarino, a freshman who replaced Pete King, is particularly interesting as he will be defending his seat for the first time, with the added unknown of how redistricting could affect things. New York could lose two seats and the Democrats will have a heavy hand in drawing the lines.

Unfortunately, the Republicans don’t have a public incumbents-to-defend list yet.

"Republicans are on offense!" wrote Michael McAdams, NRCC communications director, in an email to The Point when asked about such a list.

There is, however, the Take Back the House 2022 joint fundraising committee which has been set up to be able to support various GOP House campaigns, including those of New Yorkers Garbarino, Tenney and Katko, plus Nicole Malliotakis and Lee Zeldin, who may not be running.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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