Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Zeldin, former GOP candidate for governor, is not ruling out a new run for office

A man stands at a podium with several microphones pointed at him while another man observes in the back.
Karen DeWitt
New York State Public Radio
Lee Zeldin, former Republican candidate for New York governor, speaks Feb. 6, 2023, at the annual meeting of the state's Conservative Party in Albany. At right is state Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar.

In his first news conference since narrowly losing the 2022 election to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Lee Zeldin offered a critique of Hochul’s performance and hinted that he will be a candidate for office again sometime soon.

The former Long Island congressman and state senator, speaking Monday at the annual meeting of the state's Conservative Party in Albany, said Hochul missed some opportunities in her State of the State message and budget plan.

Zeldin said Hochul should have addressed more topics in her opening speech of the 2023 session. He said she did not try to curb state spending, especially on the fast-growing Medicaid budget, and did not include any new tax cuts, which he said many New Yorkers who are concerned about inflation and the economy want.

“But when you're the governor of the state of New York, and you're preparing to address New Yorkers on the state of this state, to start off by gaslighting us, saying, well, ‘The state of New York is that we're strong,’” Zeldin said. “No, actually we’re not.”

Zeldin criticized several priorities that Hochul did mention, including bail reform, which he said does not go far enough and would not allow judges to take the “dangerousness” of a defendant into consideration when deciding whether to set bail.

He also said Hochul’s housing plan, which would allow the state to override local zoning laws to get more homes built, will be rejected in the suburbs, including his home region of Long Island.

“The idea that you're just going to micromanage all of that up in Albany is making a lot of New Yorkers in these communities feel like they're being deliberately targeted because of how last year's election turned out,” Zeldin said. “And she is going to be meeting such an extremely stiff resistance on this proposal that she is going to end up paying more of a price because of it.”

And he said Hochul should not have approved a pay raise for legislators in late December without extracting a policy change that she wanted from them in return.

Hochul presented a budget with an over $8 billion surplus that raises spending by 2.4%.

Zeldin does not hold any elected office, having left his seat in Congress to run for governor. But he said he’s considering several options and is not ruling out a challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand next year. He said if he were to do so, it would be an “epic clash.” He also would not rule out running for governor again, or even running for Suffolk County executive on Eastern Long Island.

“I will continue to serve. I do believe that at some point, there will be a reentry to government,” Zeldin said. “Exactly what that will be, and when, we'll see.”

Zeldin said New York had a mini-red wave in 2022, with several congressional seats flipping from Democrats to Republicans, even when the GOP did more poorly than expected in the rest of the nation. He said there’s potential for that to happen again.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.