ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to headline a fundraiser next month for Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor of New York, his campaign said on Wednesday.
The event, set for Sept. 4 in Deal, New Jersey, represents a risky strategy for Zeldin, considering Trump’s unpopularity in New York.
Zeldin has trailed Gov. Kathy Hochul in campaign cash, and he may see a Jersey Shore turnout with Trump —safely beyond state lines — as a chance to catch up with his Democratic rival. Zeldin can be seen as a Trump loyalist, having voted to overturn the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden.
The vote has been viewed as a potential smear on Zeldin’s record, as he seeks the highest office in deep-blue New York. In a Siena College poll published earlier this month, 63% of New Yorkers said they disapprove of Trump.
Hochul, who took her post after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, led Zeldin by 14 percentage points in the Siena survey. Hochul’s campaign quickly attacked Zeldin over the planned Trump rendezvous after a notice advertising the event began to circulate Tuesday on social media.
“Zeldin continues to shamelessly support Trump’s far-right MAGA agenda,” Brian Lenzmeier, Hochul’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “The stakes this November could not be more clear: Lee Zeldin is too extreme and too dangerous for New York.”
Steven Cohen, a professor of public affairs at Columbia University, said that steering completely clear of Trump would be hard for any Republican candidate for governor in New York. But he added that the fundraiser could make Zeldin’s outreach to the center challenging.
“Strategically, I don’t think it makes much sense,” Cohen said. “It surprises me a little, because I thought Zeldin actually wanted to win.”
Zeldin’s campaign has been quiet about the fundraiser since they sent out the notice Tuesday. They did not immediately answer NEWS10’s request for comment.
The decision to fundraise out-of-state could also prove unpopular to upstate New Yorkers frustrated over a perceived downstate divide.
In another high-profile election in the northeast, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has routinely roused home field ire against celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz in their race for a Senate seat. Fetterman has led a viral campaign based on the disconnection between Oz, who lives in New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.