NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) — The four candidates vying for the GOP nomination in New York’s upcoming gubernatorial race appeared on PIX11 News’ Republican Forum Tuesday evening to let voters know where they stand on issues including gun control, crime, and the economy.
Exclusive PIX11 polling, conducted in partnership with The Hill and Emerson College Polling, shows U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, of Long Island, as the clear frontrunner with 34% of the vote — a double-digit lead over his opponents.
Zeldin’s three challengers are tightly bunched up, led by former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, with 16% of the vote. Astorino previously won his party’s nomination in 2014, but lost in that year’s general election to incumbent Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Just behind Astorino is Harry Wilson, commanding 15% of the vote. The businessman and moderate Republican who worked for former President Barack Obama has made strides with voters, despite being a late entrant to the field.
Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has struggled to gain traction with voters. But he remains well within striking distance of Astorino and Wilson with 13% of the vote.
Some 22% of Republic respondents to PIX11’s poll indicated that they were undecided. However, when factoring in who those voters were leaning toward, Zeldin’s support surged to 40%.
Watch the full one-hour forum in the video player above. Keep reading for recaps and individual interviews with each candidate.
PIX11’s poll indicates Giuliani is struggling to find momentum in the final days of the primary race. But among his fellow candidates, he is the strongest with city voters. Here’s where he stands on the top issues ahead of Election Day:
Giuliani has big ideas about combatting gun violence, abortion access, and inflation in New York. The Republican candidate said he wants to pump $5 billion into the state police force to combat gun violence.
“I would empower the police … to me that’s the best thing we can do,” Giuliani said.
If he takes office, the politician said he would repeal some of the state’s recent legislation on bail reform and abortion. He added that he would fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his first day in office, and any other district attorneys who don’t prosecute crimes such as resisting arrest and armed robbery.
“We’re taking the exact opposite approach of broken windows that worked so well in New York City,” he said. “We need to bring that approach to New York state.”
Giuliani said he would love an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The two have discussed several issues in the past few weeks, he said, but Trump has not yet publicly endorsed him.
“I’ve learned from Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump,” he said.
Wilson was a late addition to the field of Republicans vying to become the next governor of New York. However, polls show he’s gaining traction in the race. Here’s where he stands on the top issues heading into the primary:
As a businessman, Wilson said he’s prepared to “focus on results, not rhetoric.” One issue he’s preparing to tackle: gun violence.
Wilson said he agrees with some — but not all — of the measures signed by Gov. Hochul in the wake of a mass shooting inside a Buffalo supermarket. He agreed with red flag laws and background checks, and added that the mass shooting was an example of something that could have been dealt with “proactively.”
He told PIX11 News he grew up in a small town where everyone “owned a gun and handled it properly.”
“The problem is not law-abiding citizens,” he said. “The problem is we do a terrible job dealing with the three classes of people who really pose a problem: criminals, mentally ill … and those who are purveyors of hate.”
Like other candidates, Wilson plans to implement strong anti-crime measures if elected. A big part of that plan, he said, is getting illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals and breaking down the Iron Pipeline.
On abortion, Wilson differs from some in his party, describing himself as “pro-abortion rights.” Hochul recently signed six news bills protecting the right to an abortion in New York.
If elected, Wilson said he would not change any of the state’s current laws.
“I believe in limited government,” he said. “I believe in individual freedom and opportunity.”
A lifelong Republican, Wilson made a previous run for state comptroller in 2010. He said the reason he got “close” to winning that race is that he’s stayed focused on fiscal issues and “what matters to New Yorkers.”
As he vies again in 2022, this time for the governor’s seat, Wilson told PIX11 News he’s running as a political outsider who gets results.
The former Westchester County executive remains confident he’ll be victorious in his second run for governor. Here’s where he stands on the key issues ahead of primary day:
Astorino said he’s “perfectly prepared” to take on Gov. Kathy Hochul in the November general election.
The politician talked tough on crime, particularly in the five boroughs, vowing to support Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD from Albany. He called for the return of the controversial stop, question, and frisk policing tactic, arguing that it was the most effective means of getting illegal guns off the streets.
Astorino also said that he was willing to remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg from office if the prosecutor didn’t crack down on violent crime.
“Alvin Bragg in particular has said he doesn’t agree with prosecuting all these crimes, including many violent ones. That’s a no-no, and that’s a willful ignoring [of] the law,” Astorino said.
When asked about state abortion laws in light of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that would reverse Roe v. Wade, Astorino said that he was anti-abortion rights and called for compromise from Democratic lawmakers on the issue.
“I want to have a reasonable discussion on what can we roll back to so that everyone can compromise,” he said, calling for a greater emphasis on adoption and funding for pregnancy care centers.
Zeldin has a comfortable lead among his fellow Republicans, but with more than 20% of voters undecided, he could still benefit from more support. Here’s where he stands on the top issues in this primary:
One of the biggest changes in New York in the wake of the deadly Buffalo supermarket shooting and the Uvalde, Texas school shooting was that New Yorkers under the age of 21 will be prohibited from buying semiautomatic rifles. Congressman Zeldin does not support this change.
Zeldin is against a number of changes dealing with crime in New York in recent years. In 2019, state lawmakers enacted sweeping bail reform, getting rid of cash bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony crimes. Some of those changes were rolled back in 2020. Zeldin feels cashless bail as a whole should be repealed. He also wants judges to have the discretion to weigh dangerousness, flight risk, past criminal record and seriousness of the offense in more cases when making bail decisions.
Zeldin supports the repeal of the Less is More parole reform bill signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul along with the repeal of qualified immunity. He also wants to repeal the HALT Act, signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which reformed segregated confinement practices in New York State correctional facilities.
When it comes to crime, he also wants armed and trained resource officers at every school in New York. Zeldin believes there should be a single point of entry at all New York schools.
His views on abortion run counter to current New York laws. Zeldin is anti-abortion rights. New York codified abortion rights.
One of the biggest concerns for New Yorkers as prices spike is how inflation is being fought. Zeldin supports cutting taxes across the board for New Yorkers, rich and poor. He also wants new pipeline applications approved to cut down on gas prices in the state.
2022 NY Race for Governor: Democratic Forum
A Democratic gubernatorial forum featuring incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul and other candidates will air on PIX11 and PIX11.com on Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m.
According to the latest PIX11 poll, Hochul has a comfortable lead with 57% of voters in favor of her first full term in office. She’s distantly followed by Rep. Tom Suozzi and Jumaane Williams. About 20% of New York Democrats remained undecided, as of the survey.