Welcome to the 18th edition of this NYC election-focused newsletter. I’m independent journalist Felipe De La Hoz, and this week we thought we’d look at the Republican race for the 2022 gubernatorial election in the wake of the public collapse and resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A couple of weeks ago, we touched on how this state of affairs might help the political left and clear a path for some progressive challengers. Would it potentially do the same for the GOP, which had been seen as a no-contest opponent faced with Cuomo’s campaign war chest and political might? Let’s discuss.
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Functionally speaking, we’re talking here about Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, who at this stage is the presumptive Republican nominee. Zeldin is a higher-profile and higher-ranking Republican than those who have run for the New York governorship in recent years, who tend to hold local political office. In the past two general elections, in 2018 and 2014, the ultimate Republican candidate was a county executive, and Cuomo beat both handily. Zeldin declared his candidacy before Cuomo was brought down, but the haze of scandal was already starting to coalesce around the governor. Most statewide GOP figures have tentatively thrown their support behind him, though obviously it remains very early in the race.
Zeldin has served as the congressman for New York’s first district, which encompasses part of Suffolk County, since 2014, before which he was a state senator. He’s built some national recognition as a vocal and steadfast supporter of former President Donald Trump, which of course means he has no plans to run as a common-sense moderate Republican, as some of his predecessors have attempted to do. Perhaps most notably, Zeldin voted against the certification of election results in the 2020 presidential election, embracing the so-called Big Lie that the election was somehow stolen or manipulated and helping energize the January 6 insurrection against the Capitol.
He was an early Trump endorser, from when the future president was seen as a fringe and unserious candidate, and was a vigorous supporter of Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey and a staunch defender of the president during his first impeachment. All this is to say he’s unabashedly team MAGA, and while that appears to be the direction the party has moved in as a whole, it’s not clear that it’s a particularly winning strategy in New York.
President Joe Biden slightly outperformed 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s showing against Donald Trump in New York, and the state’s voters by and large are trending left. There’s also the fact that, depending on which Democratic gubernatorial candidate ends up prevailing, he could end up running against a longtime New York City political fixture as a relative unknown. While Zeldin has built somewhat of a national profile, he’s not an established NYC figure with broad local name recognition, and ultimately winning the governorship comes down to winning the city.
Which isn’t to say that all the signs are discouraging; while Biden still beat Trump easily, Trump’s support surged in certain pockets of New York City, including in heavily Latino areas like the West Bronx and Corona. Every election cycle, political pundits seem to forget that Latinos are not a monolithic group and have enormous variance, with some not-insignificant number holding deeply conservative views and streaks of deep-seated anti-leftists sentiment. Will that be enough to give Zeldin a fighting chance? Probably not, but it’s not wise to discount it.
Of course, while he seems like the obvious frontrunner, he’s not the only person running for the nomination. Former Westchester county executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is running again, as is Andrew Giuliani, the son of erstwhile former New York City mayor and onetime Trump confidante Rudy Giuliani. Still, it’s hard to envision a similarly serious candidate stepping up and going toe-to-toe with Zeldin as he continues to gather momentum toward the nomination. His most formidable potential rival, Rep. Elise Stefanik, has declined to throw her hat in the ring as she settles into a leadership position in the House GOP caucus.
If Zeldin wants to have a real shot at victory, he’s got a tough road ahead introducing himself to New York City voters and making his case as an unflinching right-winger and Trump acolyte in a city that has broadly rejected that style of politics. In all likelihood, he’ll hammer the Cuomo scandal, painting the state Democratic Party as corrupt and complicit in his conduct, which isn’t altogether unfair. With the city and state facing down tough economic prospects in the short term, he’ll probably latch onto the idea of a fleeing tax base and the need to jump-start economic activity, presumably via deregulation (his campaign slogan is rather unsubtly “Save our State.”)
The message will probably shift depending on who’s got the momentum on the Democratic side. If Kathy Hochul is well-positioned, it will become about her connection to Cuomo; if a candidate like New York State Attorney General Letitia James gets in the race and starts surging, it’ll be all about how she’s a radical leftist or some such. Either way, it’ll be a hard upset to pull, but certainly a much more conceivable one now that Cuomo is out of the picture.
2020 Census Takeaways
Last week, the Census Bureau released its data, showing us how much the United States has changed over the past 10 years. This data not only paints a picture of what the country looks like, but decides how political maps are drawn and how much money the government will distribute where.
So, what do these results mean for New Yorkers? Epicenter-NYC reporter Andrea Pineda-Salgado shares some key findings:
New York City grew in population
As Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The Big Apple just got bigger.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, NYC’s population grew by more than 600,000, leaving us with a population of 8.8 million.
All of New York City’s five boroughs grew, and Brooklyn and Queens take the top spot as the city’s most populated boroughs, Brooklyn’s population is up to 2,559,903 and Queens is just behind at 2,230,619.
New York is becoming more diverse
The Census allowed us to see the change in racial makeup in New York State. The Hispanic and Latino population grew from 17.6% in 2010 to 19.5% in 2020, and the Asian population grew from 7.3% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2020. This change in diversity was not just a New York phenomenon, but one that was true nationwide. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from the U.S. Census data is that the white population declined for the first time in recorded history. In New York, we saw the white population decrease from 58.3% in 2010 to 52.5% in 2020.
New York is becoming more diverse than ever, and we hope this means seeing the diversity reflected in the faces of our leaders and elected officials.
Yet diversity can mean many things. MattThomasNYC (@socialist fraternity x) Tweeted: The 2020 census shows that Queens is more diverse than ever. But Donald Trump still did better here than George Bush did 20 years ago. The most Hispanic precincts in the borough swung 25 points toward Trump from 2016. The most Asian precincts: 16 points. According to the census data, New York City makes up around 44% of the state’s total population.
New York is one of seven states losing congressional seats
Although New York City’s population grew, New York State’s did not. This resulted in New York State losing a congressional seat, leaving us with 26 seats in congress. This will also mean that congressional district maps will be redrawn.
New York State was among seven states to lose seats including California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia. If just 89 more people would have filled out the census, we could have kept our 27 congressional seats.
Now that the census information has been released, we will be sure to keep you updated on how the data will impact things like funding and elections.
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This newsletter was written by Felipe De La Hoz and Andrea Pineda-Salgado for URL Media, a network of Black and Brown news and information outlets. Our collaborative elections coverage is sponsored by a grant from the Center for Cooperative Media.