Lee Zeldin and Harry Wilson trade punches at the New York GOP governor debate

Monday’s debate between the Republican nominees for governor was marked by numerous factional arguments, but no pair of gubernatorial candidates snubbed one another more than Rep. Lee Zeldin and businessman Harry Wilson.

“In January of this year he asked me to be on his ticket. Why is he honestly attacking me now? Because his campaign is disbanding,” Wilson claimed days after he formally sued Zeldin (R-Long Island) for campaign finance violations.

Zeldin denied he had any interest in a political connection with Wilson at the debate, which also included former Westchester manager Rob Astorino and ex-Trump White House aide Andrew Giuliani.

“I never asked, and I wouldn’t ask, Harry Wilson, ‘Never Trump,'” Zeldin said when Wilson tried to persuade him.

The Wilson campaign clarified after the debate that the multimillionaire businessman, who is self-funding his campaign, was referring to a Jan. 12 call when Zeldin was allegedly trying to persuade him to run for state comptroller.

A Zeldin spokesman did not immediately respond to comment on the alleged move to get Wilson to run for the Court of Auditors.

The clash was one of many between the two candidates – who have millions more to spend in the final stretch of the campaign compared to Astorino and Giuliani.

Republican primary for governor of New York.
Andrew Giuliani is a former Trump White House adviser.
CBS News
Republican primary for governor of New York.
Rob Astorino wasn’t heavily involved in the back and forth between Zeldin and Wilson.
CBS News

Zeldin has the official support of the state party in the primary and has led the most polls in a race that is still up in the air, with early voting set to begin on June 18. The primary date is June 28th.

The winner of the GOP primary will face the Democratic nominee, who is expected to be Gov. Kathy Hochul, in November’s election.

“Note that ‘Never Trumper’ Harry Wilson has not disputed the fact that he refused to vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden,” Zeldin said at one point before crediting Wilson for his previous campaign donation to the Democratic District Attorney Manhattan party, Alvin Bragg, beat up.

Businessman Harry Wilson, left, refutes Suffolk County Congressman Lee Zeldin
Wilson and Zeldin constantly threw jabs at each other throughout the debate.
AP/Bebeto Matthews

“You went to Harvard? Yes. But don’t think you’re any smarter than Republican voters across upstate New York who can understand, Never Trumper! You found out you worked for Obama twice. You found out you fired your unvaccinated employees,” Zeldin said at another point in the debate.

Wilson defended his vaccine business record, saying it was a cost of doing business given federal regulations.

“Mr. Zeldin has never had private sector jobs. He doesn’t understand how businesses work. I ran a nursing home business. President Biden instituted a vaccination mandate for all nursing home workers. And we had to deal with that,” Wilson said.

Wilson, for his party, scarcely shied away from describing Zeldin as a career politician who moved with the political winds during his time in state and federal government.

“I’ve won more votes and come closest to a statewide victory than any Republican in the past 20 years of running the most fiscally conservative platform of my life,” Wilson said of his losing 2010 campaign for state controller vs Democrat Tom DiNapoli.

“That’s not what Mr. Zeldin is trying to do. Why is he doing that because he would do anything and say anything to detract from his terrible record as the Cuomo clone that defined his time at Albany?” said Wilson. Lee Zeldin and Harry Wilson trade punches at the New York GOP governor debate


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