Zeldin targets Hochul: ‘She tries to be whoever her political consultants tell her to be’ | Local News
For months, Rep. Lee Zeldin has been crisscrossing New York as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor, telling anybody who will listen all about his plans to transform the state.
Less than two weeks before the June 28 GOP primary, the Nassau County congressman on Wednesday convened reporters to denounce Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest extension of emergency powers to deal with Covid-19.
“I have a certain set of God-given gifts, and I can really fix complicated situations. I don’t think there is any better way to give back than to use those gifts to fix New York State,” said GOP gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson.
But he didn’t stop there during his appearance at Erie County Republican Headquarters on Main Street.
The candidate lambasted Hochul as “clearly in over her head” after succeeding Andrew M. Cuomo as governor in August. He called her latest emergency power declaration a “lust for more power and control,” adding Hochul sat idly as Cuomo mishandled the Covid-19 crisis and then wangled a $5.1 million “self-congratulatory” book deal. Zeldin said Hochul “tripled down” on her choice of the indicted Brian Benjamin as lieutenant governor, despite media reports of investigations into his past campaigns, and he again zeroed in on her new zeal for gun control after gaining an A rating from the NRA running for Congress a decade ago.
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“You can say she has ‘evolved’ on issue after issue after issue, but New Yorkers are smarter than they give them credit for,” Zeldin said. “She tries to be whoever her political consultants tell her to be for the next election.”
In the first debate among the Democratic candidates for governor, Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi of Nassau County and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams reiterated their criticism of Gov. Kathy Hochul on a variety of fronts.
He also returned to his theme of “one party rule” in New York, noting that since Democrats took over the Senate in 2019, Cuomo and Hochul have imposed their will with no opposition party input – including on her extended emergency powers.
“The governor of the State of New York should not be executing this level of control,” he added.
Flanked by state Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, who’s now a candidate in the 23rd Congressional District, Zeldin never mentioned his trio of GOP primary challengers – businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and former Trump administration official Andrew Giuliani. Instead, he assumed the front-runner role assigned by the latest Belmont/WPIX-TV poll showing him with a double-digit lead over Wilson, and he zeroed in on the governor and her Covid-19 powers.
Zeldin came to Buffalo to react to an executive order issued by Hochul on Tuesday extending her constitutionally allowed powers to manage the emergency situation stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. While she and Cuomo exercised those abilities in limiting attendance at restaurants and large gatherings in the early onslaught of the virus, Zeldin said those days have long passed.
“New Yorkers don’t want to be ruled by an emperor governor,” Zeldin said, adding he believes the Legislature should be involved in granting extensions of power. He recalled governments on all levels working together during the pandemic’s early days of 2020, he said, but the situation has improved to the point that the Legislature must provide accountability and “reassert itself.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul will report a total of $31.7 million raised so far, according to a disclosure to be filed today with the state Board of Elections and obtained by The Buffalo News.
“The Legislature should be the one to grant the governor Covid emergency powers,” he said. “She shouldn’t have Covid emergency powers granted unilaterally to herself.”
In an interview with The Buffalo News, Hochul said Wednesday she is forced to continue dealing with acute crises such as assigning National Guard personnel to hospitals at Erie County Medical Center or attracting nurses and other medical personnel to deal with staffing shortages. The vast array of powers from 2020 are no longer needed, she said, but some still are. And she promised an end to the need for them at some point.
“We need the flexibility to do what we’ve done throughout the pandemic,” she said. “If I lose those extraordinary powers, I can’t do things like that.
“My ego does not require me to need this,” she added. “I can assure you that.”
Zeldin, meanwhile, updated other Hochul criticisms, including her new package of gun control legislation that she proposed and the Legislature approved immediately following the May 14 shootings that claimed 10 lives at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue.
“I believe New York’s gun control laws go too far,” he said, noting his co-sponsorship of legislation while in the State Senate to rescind Cuomo’s strict gun control law known as the SAFE Act. His opposition to the new bills stems from the same principle, he said.
“They target law abiding citizens,” he said, adding that he supports ramping up school safety with steps such as deployment of more school safety officers.