But Giuliani, the son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, may well be the biggest wildcard in the still young race to run against Cuomo or another Democratic candidate in 2022. On the one hand, he almost certainly has highest name recognition in the field. “How’s your old man?” – a question a stranger asked him at the fair – probably isn’t a question Zeldin asks himself on a regular basis.
All the evidence suggests he puts real energy into his campaign and isn’t just relying on his last name like many in New York City political circles thought he would when he launched this spring. While he spent four years as an adviser to Donald Trump (and, in a way, the former president’s most frequent golf companion), his only previous candidacy involved a brief flirtation with a campaign. at New York City Hall.
It is now regularly present in upstate New York, at places like the Lowville Fair, a town of 3,500 people west of the Adirondacks, halfway between Utica and the Canadian border.
“Our goal is – and it’s an impossible goal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to focus on it – is to meet as many of the 19.5 million New Yorkers as possible,” Giuliani said. in an interview. at the fair. “Certainly as many of the 9 million voters as possible, and in order to win this primary, as many of the 2.9 million Republicans registered as possible.”
“This is why we are going to the Lewis County Fair,” he added. “That’s why we’re going to the Greene County Fair. This is why we will go to Nascar. This is why we are organizing the Empire Farm Days.
Ahead of this year, Giuliani’s most significant appearance in New York politics came when he was just 7 years old and was sworn in for mayoralty with his father – a stage robbery performance. which earned him a portrait of Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live. Now 35, Giuliani’s work has since included pursuing a career in golf and a job in the White House, with a portfolio that included managing Trump’s interactions with sports teams.
Some of the people who saw Giuliani during the election campaign believe his efforts should not be overlooked.
“He seems to be more of an appeal to the Trump-oriented voter than to Zeldin,” said Jeff Graham, the former mayor of Watertown, a town about five miles from Lake Ontario. Graham recently hosted Giuliani on his local radio show.
“Zeldin – there hasn’t been a lot of spice in his efforts so far. If you go up against Cuomo, you have to be a fighter, because Cuomo is a street fighter. He’s going to throw a lot of elbows under the basket.” Graham said. “And I think Giuliani has more wit than I’ve seen from the other candidates.”
Giuliani “knows I support Lee Zeldin,” said MP Chris Tague, GOP chairman in rural Schoharie County, west of Albany.
But, added Tague, Giuliani is “very intelligent, very good standing and very pleasant. I was actually very impressed with him. And he has a lot of knowledge about a wide range of things, which also impressed me, and I think it would be wrong to just ignore him … Whether it’s his time or not, put it aside and go. not giving it any respect, I think, is wrong.
Tague backed Zeldin in a June straw poll of GOP officials. Long Island congressman, 41, got 85% of the weighted vote, former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino 5% and none of the other candidates received support.
If there is a similar outcome when party leaders formally meet this winter, then Zeldin will automatically receive a spot in the June primary and can present himself to donors and potential voters as the party’s approved candidate. Everyone will have to pay attention to collecting tens of thousands of petition signatures in order to appear on the primary ballot.
Winning a governor’s primary without party support is obviously a more difficult path. But it has already been done, most recently in 2010, when Rick Lazio – who like Zeldin served four terms in Congress to represent Long Island – was stunned by Carl Paladino, a developer from Buffalo who ran a popular campaign making appealing to the types of voters who would ultimately form Trump’s coalition.
There is another more recent example of a candidate winning an important position with negligible institutional support at this stage of a race.
“[Trump] would have just announced his candidacy in 2015 for the presidency, ”said Giuliani. “That’s kind of where we are for a governor – we’re still at 15 and a half months. Obviously, some things have moved on quickly at this point, but I think if we continue to build the base by coming to these massive gathering places, we will stand a great chance. “
Giuliani promises to bring something resembling Trumpian politics to power if elected. There has long been an unwritten rule in New York City policy that governors should not publicly feud with state lawmakers, and those who broke the rule faced dire consequences.
Eliot Spitzer crossed that line in 2007 by attacking members of the Assembly who did not support his plan to choose a new state comptroller, and he was never able to stabilize his administration’s relations with the legislature. When Cuomo crossed the line earlier this year by attacking Assembly member Ron Kim, who had criticized the administration’s decision to hide the number of Covid-19 deaths linked to nursing homes, he created a national news cycle focused on the story of the governor’s bullying behind closed doors that quickly evolved into a discussion of allegations of even more inappropriate Cuomo behavior.
But for Giuliani, directly fighting members of the Democratic-dominated Legislature is part of his campaign pitch.
“I would like to invite every Assembly member to lunch for the first 90 days and see if we can develop [a] report, ”he said. “If that doesn’t work, then at the end of the day we have to make sure we can use the governor’s intimidating chair to cut taxes.”
He said he would go to the districts of individual lawmakers to advance his agenda if they contradict him – an aggressive move for a New York governor.
“We are going to go beyond them and reach out to their constituents,” he said.
Zeldin, like Giuliani, has spent the last few years as a prominent Trump supporter. He voted against certification of the presidential election on January 6 and was one of the former president’s most vocal supporters during the first impeachment.
Trump is expected to hold a fundraiser for Republicans in New York City on August 5. He has not publicly indicated whether or not he will support the race for governor.
Giuliani does not expect an approval “until the spring of next year, if he does”.
“I guess he’s probably sitting down. Obviously, I would never deny President Trump’s approval, “said Giuliani” But I know how his mind works, I know how the inner workings of his political team work, and if you have multiple friends in a race, usually you are nice. to sit down and see how it goes. So I guess he stays on the sidelines until it’s clear we’re the candidate. “
Even if Giuliani manages to shake up the primary, he would enter the general election as an even bigger underdog. No Republican has won a statewide election in New York since 2002, and the results have rarely been close since then. And unless the mood of the electorate changes dramatically – much of Cuomo’s successful campaign message in 2018 simply pointed out that his opponent was registered in the same party as Trump – it might be difficult to say. imagine that a White House alum will be the one to break this streak. .
But Giuliani believes there is a path, and it could be very similar to that followed by his father when he was elected mayor of New York in 1993. He notes that crime was a major problem for Democratic voters during this period. of the June Mayor’s Primary, which was won by Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who sent a public order message.
“When it’s problem number one for Democrats, generally what you see is Democrats will cross the lines and vote for Republicans or maybe not come and vote,” Giuliani said. “It gives me a lot of hope that we’re going to have a great chance of getting the cross-vote that we need.
It also helps that Cuomo is as vulnerable as he ever was. He faces multiple inquiries, including an impeachment inquiry, linked to allegations of sexual misconduct, the nursing home death scandal and claims he misused state resources to help him to write a book. He will almost certainly face a murderous primary if he follows through on his plan to run for a fourth term.
But to even have a chance to cause seismic upheaval – against Cuomo or another Democrat – Giuliani will first have to cause primary upheaval and win voters in Republican strongholds like Lewis County.
The county, which gave Trump 70% of the vote last year, may be sparsely populated, but it’s the kind of place a Republican posing as being against the establishment might find some success. : The first house seen crossing the southern county line sported a flag similar in design to a MAGA banner, but containing a nine letter message. The last five were CUOMO.
“We think if we can make progress with these voters,” Giuliani said, saying it would give him “the best chance of winning eventually.”
“Rather than appealing to a few of the party leaders,” he added, “I would much rather appeal to the 3 million New Yorkers who are going to vote in June of next year.”