New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin came up short in his attempt to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 2022 election, but he does not view his defeat as a total loss.
With the highest vote total of any GOP candidate for New York governor in more than half a century, Zeldin said his campaign showed it is possible to reach non-Republicans in a deep blue state like New York.
"I feel like the results showed how effective the campaign was reaching out beyond Republicans," Zeldin told the New York Post. "We’ll see what the final tally is. But the only way to come this close in the state like New York — one of the bluest states in the country — is to be able to connect with Democrats and independents as well."
At last count, Zeldin had 2.6 million votes, more than any other Republican running for state office in New York. It is also more than the last Republican governor, George Pataki, garnered in each of his three election victories. The last time a Republican got more votes for governor was 52 years ago when Nelson Rockefeller got approximately 3 million votes when he was elected to each of his four terms.
In a statement following the election, Zeldin called his effort "a once-in-a-generation campaign" that led to a close outcome.
Zeldin's focus on public safety and law enforcement struck a chord with voters who are concerned about violent crime – especially in New York City. While it was not enough to overcome Hochul, Zeldin indicated his ability to reach voters helped his fellow New York Republicans pick up at least 10 House seats.
"We were running as one-team, one ticket," Zeldin said. "I helped to bring out their voters, they helped to bring out my voters. That’s what happens when you are all working together on these campaigns."
Zeldin also expressed hope that officials in Albany take notice of how well he and his message were received and ultimately make some changes.
"There are a lot of laws that have been passed which have caused some very dangerous, negative consequences and regardless of the makeup of the legislature, whoever is up there should understand that this is a very real issue that needs to be dealt with," he said.
"I believe that there’s a lot more to be able to secure our streets and our subways," he added. "New Yorkers don’t want to be told that this is just a perception or a conspiracy this is something that has impacted routines and behaviors and life decisions in a way that Albany needs to take extremely seriously."
Zeldin told the Post that when he called Hochul to concede, he said he would assist her in moving the state in the right direction.
"We discussed how it was a hard-fought, spirited campaign," he said. "It’s a day where everyone should understand the sober reality that there are approximately 3 million voters who wanted one outcome and there were just under 3 million voters who wanted a different outcome.
Moving forward, he called on state officials "to digest and come up with a game plan for 2023 that seeks to represent all New Yorkers and not just the people who agree with you."