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Campaigning at the Extreme

Wed, 07/13/2022 - 11:59


The news last week that a Republican candidate for New York State Senate not only quit the race for his party’s nomination but quit the G.O.P. altogether should inform voters ahead of another state campaign, that for governor of New York. Quoted in The Buffalo News, Joel Giambra, a former Erie County executive, repeatedly called out Representative Lee Zeldin of New York’s First Congressional District, who handily won a four-way race for the Republicans’ nominee for governor. The Republican and Conservative Parties had endorsed Mr. Giambra’s candidacy in the spring. But the now-former candidate “said he refuses to carry on with a G.O.P. he says seems committed to much of the Trump agenda,” according to the upstate newspaper.

In a July 6 article, Mr. Giambra said, “I cannot stand with party leaders who double down in their support of the N.R.A. after yet another mass shooting; who applaud the decision to take away a woman’s right to choose and who encourage the elimination of L.G.B.T.Q. rights.”

Mr. Zeldin said last month that he was proud to support a New York State Rifle and Pistol Association case that led to the Supreme Court striking down the 109-year-old statute that sharply restricted the carrying of concealed firearms in the state. Not surprisingly, he vehemently opposed a subsequent bill in the New York State Legislature to bolster concealed-carry restrictions. In a nation with more firearms than people, an accelerating epidemic of mass-slaughter events, and an increase in other violent crime including in New York City, Mr. Zeldin’s position is inexcusable.

Mr. Zeldin parrots his party’s messaging with respect to abortion. His statement on the court’s overturning Roe v. Wade emphasized what he called “late-term partial birth abortion” — though barely 1 percent of abortions in the United States happen on or after 21 weeks of pregnancy — and repeated talking-point smokescreens about parental consent and adoption. Here, too, he was far out of step with a sizable majority of New Yorkers, along with Americans at large.

Unacceptable too is the congressman’s stalwart support of former President Trump, whose attempts to subvert democracy after his 2020 defeat is increasingly exposed in hearings of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol. Mr. Zeldin’s words and deeds before and after the insurrection demonstrate that he is unfit to lead any state, much less one as diverse and welcoming to personal freedom as our own.

In December 2020, Mr. Zeldin had filed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to disenfranchise some 20 million voters in four states won by President Biden. When that effort failed, and hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection, he voted to overturn the results of the election in two states. He was among the former president’s determined defenders during an unprecedented two impeachment proceedings.

Throughout, Mr. Zeldin complained about enhanced ballot access amid a once-in-a-century public health emergency, as the object of his one-sided devotion, Mr. Trump, lied without stop about fraud, plotted with allies, and bullied Georgia state officials to “find” votes for him. In the days after the insurrection, the congressman’s Twitter feed was chock-full of straw-man arguments and whataboutism. “G.O.P. is tagged as seditionist traitors if they voice Jan. 6 objections,” he said five days after the riot.

Mr. Zeldin faces an uphill battle in blue New York, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 margin. There are more voters registered as blank, that is, with no party affiliation, than there are registered Republicans. But the congressman’s campaign said it is counting on a “red tsunami” in the midterm election, which traditionally favors the party that does not hold the White House. Not here, not in New York. He is likely to shift his messaging to the center in the general election campaign, and voters should have none of it.

Surveying a political party that, through its Supreme Court nominees, has curtailed freedom of choice while radically expanding the presence of lethal weapons into everyday life, Mr. Giambra was poignant as he reflected on Republicans’ fealty to the former president. “It’s gotten worse,” he said. “Now I would have to campaign with Zeldin.”


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