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Former President Donald Trump continues to make a huge difference in political races ahead of the 2022 midterms, including statewide races.
According to the New York Post, Trump helped GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin raise some $1.5 million for his gubernatorial campaign against Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took over as New York governor when former Andrew Cuomo resigned last fall amid a swirling sex harassment scandal.
The funds for Zeldin were raised during a reception at the Chera real estate family’s home in New Jersey, where Trump made an appearance and stumped for Zeldin on Sunday, The Post reported.
The former president lauded Zeldin for assisting him during an “impeachment hoax number one and impeachment hoax number two and a lot of scams,” as well as legal cases seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.
“I had these maniacs against me. He was one of those great voices,” Trump noted at the event, according to a recording The Post obtained. “Go support Lee Zeldin.”
Trump also touted his administration’s kept promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after his predecessors including presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama promised to do so but did not.
Zeldin, who is Jewish, also spoke at the event and noted that Trump has been supporting him since his first congressional run in 2014.
“There are people you meet in politics who you refer to as friends. They’re the people who show up the day after you win. They tell you they were there the whole time. I’m pretty sure they weren’t. But then they’re our friends,” Zeldin said at the event. “He’s with supporters and strong supporters — people who believe in him, people who believe that his policies are right for America and that his policies still to this day are right for America.”
Zeldin has been lagging behind Hochul in terms of fundraising and in the polls. Her campaign reportedly has around $11.7 million on hand compared to around $1.6 million for Zeldin before the Sunday event.
Still, some polls have the race tightening in recent weeks, with about two months left before the election, The Post reported, adding:
Zeldin faces a big fundraising gap in his race against Hochul, who has argued to voters that Zeldin’s support for Trump makes him too extreme to lead the Empire State.
“Zeldin is desperately looking for cash and a path forward by doubling down on his allegiance to the far-right MAGA agenda,” her campaign said in a recent press release touting news of Zeldin’s struggles with fundraising compared to the incumbent Democrat.
The GOP congressman and former state Republican lawmaker has campaigned hard on issues that he sees as most concerning to New Yorkers such as rising violent crime. He’s also looking for support from more moderate Democrats disaffected with their party such as former City Councilman Ruben Diaz. Sr., who served alongside Zeldin when he was in the New York Senate, The Post noted.
“I might be a Republican and Eric Adams may be a Democrat, but this isn’t about partisanship,” Zeldin noted on Sunday, in reference to the New York City mayor’s efforts to halt so-called ‘bail reform’ over the resistance of Democrats like Hochul, whom Adams has endorsed nonetheless.
Though he remains at a distinct disadvantage in polling and fundraising, Zeldin insisted on Sunday that he could still pull off a victory in a blue state where Democratic registered voters outnumber Republicans roughly two-to-one. The last Republican to win a statewide office was Gov. George Pataki in 2002.
“The prediction was that George Pataki was going to lose by 11.5 points. And that wasn’t on Labor Day weekend — that was the week before the election. And George Pataki just days later went on to make history. We elected a Republican governor,” Zeldin said Sunday.
The Post reported, however, that according to a Siena College Poll released in early August, Trump has a 63 percent unfavorable view among New Yorkers, and Hochul’s campaign is using that in her race against Zeldin.