ALBANY — Lee Zeldin downplayed an endorsement from former President Donald Trump on Monday as texts emerged showing the Long Island congressman was in touch with the former president’s team amid efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate, one of 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s electoral win, said the support from Trump came as no surprise.
“It shouldn’t have been news,” Zeldin said following a press conference in the Bronx. “He supported me before this weekend.”
Trump issued a full-throated endorsement of his longtime supporter on Sunday on Truth Social, praising Zeldin as a “brilliant lawyer” and a “WINNER who GOT THINGS DONE.”
Zeldin, hoping to unseat Democratic Gov. Hochul on Nov. 8, has embraced his relationship with Trump despite the ex-prez’s unpopularity in his former home state.
Trump initially chose not to endorse a candidate prior to New York’s Republican primary back in June as Zeldin was up against Andrew Giuliani, the son of former mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Last month, however, the twice impeached ex-president inserted himself into the Empire State governor’s race by hosting a Jersey Shore fundraiser for Zeldin.
Hochul and her fellow Dems have repeatedly hammered the Long Island lawmaker over his ties to Trump. The governor’s campaign doubled down on Monday following a report that Zeldin texted former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows “2 ideas” to help muddy the water in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss to Biden.
“Lee Zeldin’s aspirations to be Donald Trump’s number one ally are never-ending,” Hochul campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said in a statement. “Zeldin’s record is already dangerous and disqualifying, and these new revelations show the extent of his involvement in pushing Donald Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories.”
The text exchange, revealed in logs obtained by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and shared online by investigative reporter Hunter Walker, shows Zeldin laying out a plan to help Trump bolster his baseless claims that the 2020 election was beset by fraud and irregularities.
Zeldin spokeswoman slammed Hochul for focusing on the past.
“You know Kathy Hochul is desperate when she’d rather obsess over a text message sent at the beginning of November before the election was even called, rather than focusing on the issues most important to New Yorkers, including rising crime on our streets and a skyrocketing cost of living,” Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Kaite Vincentz said.
Last week, a union-backed Super PAC released an ad tying Zeldin to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, accusing him of putting “politics before the police.”
The 30-second spot featured the brother of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died from a stroke a day after defending the seat of the U.S. government from Trump-supporting rioters.
A Zeldin spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the newly revealed texts.
Hochul has maintained a double-digit advantage in most polls leading up to the general election, although a Marist survey released last week found her lead to be around 10% with less than a month to go before Election Day. Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York by a 2-to-1 margin.
While Zeldin has focused his campaign on crime and public safety, the Marist poll shows that a significant number of voters are concerned about “preserving democracy,” meaning his ties to Trump could cost him.
The Marist Poll, conducted from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6, found that the top issue for voters was inflation, with 28% citing it as their greatest concern, followed by the health of democracy (24%), crime (18%) and abortion (14%).