By Richard Lee
While Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican Lee Zeldin continue to battle each other in the race for governor, an interesting sideshow will take place Tuesday in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
Republicans Carl Paladino and Nick Langworthy are vying to become the party’s candidate in the November general election. Both are strong supporters of former President Donald Trump, so the race is pitting two candidates with similar ideologies against each other.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Democrat Max Della Pia in November.
Although the Paladino-Langworthy race is drawing attention beyond the boundaries of the 23rd District, the outcome of the primary will have little effect on Hochul. The composition of the district is heavily Republican. Regardless of who wins the GOP primary, she is unlikely to fare well among the district’s Republican voters.
On the other hand, Zeldin could find himself confronting a political dilemma if Paladino emerges victorious on Tuesday because of Paladino’s history of making controversial and incendiary comments.
If Paladino wins the District 23 primary, Zeldin is likely going to have to answer questions about some of those comments, as well as any new remarks that Paladino may make. In fact, New York Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs criticized Zeldin on Thursday for not speaking out about Paladino telling a radio host that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland should be executed for authorizing the FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
If Zeldin condemns or distances himself from statements Paladino makes, he runs the risk of alienating strong conservative voters – a group that accounts for a significant number of Republican votes.
But if he remains silent, Zeldin could lose support from moderate voters, and he needs to make inroads with moderates in order to win statewide.
In the context of a major campaign, reacting to Carl Paladino is a minor issue, but when you’re facing an uphill battle, it’s a problem you would rather not have to deal with.
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. To read more of Lee’s ‘”On the Road to Albany” columns, follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.