Rep. Lee Zeldin will enter a Monday night debate with three other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls with substantial momentum ahead of the final day of voting on June 28.
Recent backing by the Post’s editorial board adds to long-running advantages with fundraising, endorsements and polling over businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester Executive Rob Astorino and former White House staffer and Big Apple mayoral legacy Andrew Giuliani in the race.
“Lee Zeldin was dismissed for campaigning so early. Until it worked. And here he sits, on the eve of the primary,” upstate conservative pundit Bob Lonsberry wrote while endorsing Zeldin in a Monday blog post.
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Zeldin also recently beat back a legal challenge by Wilson – who is self-funding his campaign for governor – over supposed irregularities with his campaign spending.
But the putative frontrunner will face a gauntlet of attacks at tonight’s 7 p.m. debate on Spectrum cable’s NY1 from Wilson, Astorino and Giuliani, who will participate remotely because of his unvaccinated status.
Zeldin faced a barrage of attacks at the first debate among the candidates last week.
Wilson and Astorino attacked Zeldin over the praise he lavished as a state senator on Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Zeldin fired back with jabs about “Rolex Rob” and Wilson’s past role as an economic advisor to President Barack Obama.
The millionaire businessman deflected questions about his conservative credentials by suggesting Zeldin wanted him to run for lieutenant governor rather than his running mate Alison Esposito, a former NYPD deputy inspector.
Wilson’s campaign later claimed that Zeldin asked him to run for state comptroller in January.
Zeldin’s campaign has yet to respond to questions about the veracity of that claim.
That issue and others could resurface Monday night or at a Tuesday debate hosted by Newsmax in Rochester.
Zeldin’s rivals also must battle the growing sense of inevitability that he will prevail by the end of voting on June 28 as conservatives set their sights on a general election they hope will mark their first statewide victory in two decades.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul remains the favorite to win her own primary and a full term in office.