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Zeldin concedes governor’s race to Hochul after a night of disbelief for his supporters

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin addresses his supporters on Nov. 8, 2022.
Photo by Dean Moses

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin officially conceded the race to Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul on Wednesday, hours after multiple media outlets called the race in her favor.

Zeldin initially didn’t concede at his campaign party Tuesday night in Midtown before a packed house of stunned spectators, holding out hope that enough votes would be found to close the gap between him and Hochul — which numbered in the hundreds of thousands of votes.

But on Wednesday afternoon, after realizing the deficit couldn’t be overcome, Zeldin issued a statement admitting defeat while congratulating the rival he had cast as being soft on crime and the economy for months. 

“I would like to congratulate New York Governor Kathy Hochul on her election to a full, four-year term,” Zeldin said in his statement. “This race was a once in a generation campaign, with a very close margin in the bluest of blue state. The unrelenting passion and hard work of our grassroots volunteers and supporters made this incredibly close race possible and helped us win at least 49 of New York’s 62 counties.” 

While Zeldin won the state geographically, he could not overcome the surge of voters from New York City which helped power Hochul to victory. In analyzing the returns, Stephen Romalewski, a researcher for CUNY’s Center of Urban Research, tweeted that Hochul garnered 70% of the more than 1.7 million votes cast from the Five Boroughs, the state’s most populated area. 

The evening wasn’t a total loss for Zeldin’s Republican colleagues, as the GOP swept all four Long Island Congressional seats, and knocked off powerful Democratic Congress Member Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley. 

Zeldin made the election much closer than initially anticipated, and it likely helped downballot Republican candidates in the suburbs and upstate. His campaign, the outgoing Long Island Congress member concluded, should cause “those controlling Albany” to “take note.” 

“New Yorkers of all walks of life are sick of the attacks on their wallets, their safety, their freedoms and the quality of their kids’ education, and are hitting their breaking point, as proven by these results,” Zeldin added. “As they take office in January, Governor Kathy Hochul and those controlling Albany must address the grave concerns voiced by the voters.”

A night of gloom

 Zeldin supporters were left in near tears Tuesday night at the Republican’s Midtown election party as the reality of the outcome set in.

What began as vigorous joy and optimism soon descended into horrific looks of shocks and furious anger for the Zeldin faithful on Nov. 8 when it became clear Hochul had been elected the first female governor of the state.

The party was attended by the likes of Andrew Giuliani, Curtis Sliwa, and former Bronx City Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr. but even they could not hold the enthusiasm as the crowd, with eyes glued to the incoming election results, began to descend into despair.

Curtis Sliwa.Photo by Dean Moses
Reality of the defeat sets in. Photo by Dean Moses

“Something is wrong – something has to be wrong,” one male attendee repeated as the gap between the candidates widened.

Covering their faces in shock and beginning to well up with tears, the reality of the situation started to set in. Some even yelled at the televisions.

However, many more refused to accept the defeat and even frantically searched for contrasting results on their cellphones — to no avail.

Just after the clock struck midnight, Zeldin joined his would-be constituents in refusing to accept defeat — clinging to apparent hope that more votes had yet to be counted, including out of his home Suffolk County, that would close the roughly 300,000-vote gap.

Many refused to accept the defeat and even frantically searched for contrasting results on their cellphones. Photo by Dean Moses
Many refused to accept the defeat and even frantically searched for contrasting results on their cellphones. Photo by Dean Moses

“So, what’s going to happen is that over the course of these next couple of hours, you’re going to see the race continuing to get closer and closer and closer and closer. This includes by the way on Long Island, you’re going to see a massive victory coming out of Long Island which will also be closing the gap,” Zeldin told a deflated crowd.

Unfortunately for Zeldin, that gap had not shrunk in such a dramatic fashion to undo the projected Hochul victory. It ultimately compelled Zeldin to do something that former President Donald Trump — who supported Zeldin, and for whom Zeldin voted against certifying the 2020 election results in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 — did not do: concede defeat.

Updated on Nov. 9 at 2:15 p.m.

Attendees grew furious. Photo by Dean Moses
Attendees grew furious. Photo by Dean Moses

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