LI's gubernatorial candidates look ahead and look back
Zeldin’s challenge becomes a broader battle
For Rep. Lee Zeldin, the turnaround from his easy primary victory to the uphill general election battle was a quick one. The congressman, retiring after four terms to run for governor, got three hours of sleep Tuesday night before he was back at it.
So how does the challenge, and his approach, differ now that he has a broader audience to convince, and one likely to be wary of his support of Donald Trump?
“If Kathy Hochul wants to focus on ‘orange man bad’ instead of the problems that New Yorkers across the political spectrum are truly concerned about, we’re just going to keep winning new voters even faster,” Zeldin told The Point, when asked how he’d deal with that challenge.
Zeldin, who prides himself on his team’s data and “get out the vote” operations, said the 21-percentage point win was right in line with his internal polling from the firm of GOP consultant John McLaughlin. And he has set targets for what he needs to garner in every county in the state to land the governor’s mansion for Long Island, which he says has never been done.
“We have to get 29% out of New York City, and we will exceed that,” Zeldin said. His targets for other key counties? Zeldin says he needs 60% in Suffolk, 55% in Nassau and 43% in Westchester.
And on the issues, how will his message and method change as he turns from a closed GOP primary to an open race in a state where his opponent has a 2-1 voter registration advantage?
“What people don’t realize is … we’ve been running a general election race, in some sense, since we started,” Zeldin said.
He pointed to a raft of meetings and events he’s been having in New York City and elsewhere for 19 months, with traditionally Democratic constituent groups, like Asians, Blacks and Hispanics, as proof that he’s been focused on all the state’s voters all along.
As for whether his tilt on the issues will change, Zeldin said he won’t be moderating to the middle to convince new voters that he has the right message on lower taxes, abortion, crime and public safety, cost-of-living or gun rights. But the way that message is communicated may change.
“What we’re finding is that voters across the spectrum have the same concerns about a state where it’s getting harder and harder to live, where crime is a huge concern and where people are leaving faster than from any other state,” Zeldin said. “But the conversation with someone who has never voted for anyone but Democrats will sometimes be different than with Republicans. How you build that bridge might take a different direction.”
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Suozzi’s postgame review
Rep. Tom Suozzi’s bid for the Democratic nomination for governor failed, but the former Nassau County executive says he has “no regrets at all” for trying, even as he sacrificed a reelection chance to do it.
“I think my message all along was the right one,” he told The Point Wednesday, citing affordability, crime, schools and political corruption as chief concerns for voters, and what he sought to fix. “The audience wasn’t buying it.”
The primary draws a low number of Democrats, he said. “I’ve been saying that for 10 years,” Suozzi added, with the Republican primary tending to lean right, and the Democratic vote tilting leftward. He said his message resonates with those who took part in his many hours of campaign town hall meetings.
Unfortunately for Suozzi, the better-positioned and funded Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated him in his home county with 62% of the vote, to Suozzi’s 30% and Jumaane Williams’ 7%. Statewide, Suozzi ran behind Williams, who based on unofficial totals received 19% of the vote to Suozzi’s 13% and Hochul’s lopsided 67%. Suozzi got 18% in the 2006 primary for governor against Eliot Spitzer, a quixotic one-on-one contest.
Some Suozzi allies noted that Hochul appeared more sharply challenged earlier in the race following the indictment of her first lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, and static over funding the Buffalo football stadium. But given the bigger platform, she was able to come out front-and-center on slamming unpopular-in-New-York Supreme Court decisions on guns and abortion.
For his part, Jay Jacobs, the state and Nassau Democratic chairman, was a longtime Suozzi ally. They parted ways in this race, with Hochul running in her first statewide primary for the top slot. On Tuesday, Jacobs was marking other victories, especially with incumbents fending off primary challenges from the left in seven New York City Assembly races. A few of those races had Mayor Eric Adams endorsing the current member against insurgents backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Jacobs called the outcomes a rejection of left-wing activists backed in Democratic races by the Working Families Party. “The Democratic Party is a moderate progressive party,” he said, as shown by Adams’ primary win last year and Hochul’s this week.
Consultant Bruce Gyory also cited, as a Jacobs win, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado’s overwhelming victory for lieutenant governor over WFP-backed candidate Ana Maria Archila and Suozzi ally Diana Reyna.
What’s next for Suozzi? He says he will first serve out his term in the now-redrawn 3rd Congressional District “and do what I can to serve my constituents and the country.”
— Dan Janison @Danjanison
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Nassau County apparently needs its own tourism boost.
The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved a massive increase in an advertising contract dedicated to promoting tourism in the county.
The contract, with Ed Moore Advertising Agency, previously was capped at $450,000 — $150,000 per year for three years. Under the new agreement, it’s been extended to February 2025 and the total amount has increased by $1.8 million — to a new cap of $2.25 million.
The funds will come out of Nassau’s American Rescue Plan Act pot, lawmakers said.
The tourism contract is in addition to a separate request for proposals Nassau plans to issue for the contract it previously has held with Discover Long Island, the region’s tourism arm, which had expired. Discover Long Island is expected to respond to that RFP when it is issued.
Darcy Belyea, commissioner of Nassau County Parks, Recreation and Museums, said that that request was for more of a regionwide effort focused on Long Island more broadly — and the hope for the Ed Moore contract is to have attention focused specifically on Nassau’s events, parks, restaurants, hotels and recreational opportunities.
“We want to bring people here to the county and immediately increase our revenue and visitors to our own facilities, as well as private businesses,” Belyea said during Monday’s legislative rules committee meeting. “We’re looking to put more of a focus here on our county.”
Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello and Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton questioned Belyea on the contract, pushing at the increased expenditure, whether ARPA funds would be available for the length of the contract, and why it was necessary in light of the other RFP and past work with Discover Long Island.
Belyea said in light of the pandemic, the new tourism campaign was key, especially in bringing Nassau residents and those from the surrounding area back to local events, sites and small businesses. County officials told The Point that about $600,000 of the additional funds were first allocated by former County Executive Laura Curran.
The contract passed unanimously.
“I believe it’s advantageous to promote the county and to specifically get people to come to Nassau County,” Nicolello told The Point. “And I believe you’re going to have to spend money to make money on this.”
Among Ed Moore Advertising’s other clients are Adventureland, Live Nation and The Dover Group, the catering business run by the politically connected Butch Yamali. Ed Moore co-owner and vice president Joe Kenny told The Point that the past contract “limited” what the agency could do for Nassau, so the new funds should be able to allow for advertising “more extensively.”
As for a new Nassau slogan or campaign theme?
“Everything is still in the works,” Kenny said.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall