Trump helps Lee Zeldin raise $1.5M in New Jersey

Former President Donald Trump gave Rep. Lee Zeldin a $1.5 million boost at a fundraiser for the Republican gubernatorial nominee ahead of the Nov. 8 election against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“There are people you meet in politics who you refer to as friends. They’re the people who show up the day after you win. They tell you they were there the whole time. I’m pretty sure they weren’t. But then their our friends,” Zeldin declared at the event, according to a recording obtained by The Post.

“He’s with supporters and strong supporters – people who believe in him, people who believe that his policies are right for America and that his policies still to this day are right for America,” he added.

Trump touted his administration’s success on efforts like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem while praising Zeldin as someone who had leaned on his support going back to his first congressional run in 2014, according to audio obtained by The Post.

“He said: ‘You’re popular in New York. You’re popular in my district’ – and I liked him,” Trump said of his thinking at the time.

Most polls have shown Zeldin trailing Hochul by a wide margin, though some have pegged the race closer.
Steve White

Trump said Zeldin helped him survive “impeachment hoax number one and impeachment hoax number two and a lot of scams” referring to his unsuccessful efforts to overturn the 2020 election results that Zeldin supported.

“I had these maniacs against me. He was one of those great voices,” Trump said Sunday.

“Go support Lee Zeldin,” he added.

His presence at the Long Branch, NJ home of the Chera family tied to the St. Regis New York Hotel highlighted how important the real estate magnate remains to New York Republicans despite his ongoing unpopularity.

Zeldin faces a big fundraising gap in his race against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has argued to voters that Zeldin’s support for Trump makes him too extreme to lead the Empire State.

“Zeldin is desperately looking for cash and a path forward by doubling down on his allegiance to the far-right MAGA agenda,” her campaign said in a recent press release touting news of Zeldin’s struggles with fundraising compared to the incumbent Democrat.

Campaign filings from mid-July show her with $11.7 million on hand compared to $1.6 million for Zeldin, who Trump did not endorse before he won a crowded GOP primary in June.

Zeldin has campaigned heavily on issues like rising crime while seeking support from disaffected conservative Democrats like the former City Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who Zeldin served alongside during his time as a state senator.

“I might be a Republican and Eric Adams may be a Democrat, but this isn’t about partisanship,” Zeldin said Sunday, referring to shared efforts with the Democratic mayor – who has endorsed Hochul – to change bail reform over the resistance of Albany Democrats like Hochul.

Despite the barriers facing his campaign, the Long Island rep says he can still gain enough ground to become the first Republican elected to statewide office since former GOP Gov. George Pataki in 2002.

“The prediction was that George Pataki was going to lose my 11.5 points. And that wasn’t on Labor Day weekend – that was the week before the election. And George Pataki just days later went on to make history. We elected a Republican governor,” Zeldin said Sunday.

But polling and fundraising show Hochul with an unmistakable in polling in addition to her fundraising advantage in a state where registered Democrats outnumber their GOP counterparts by roughly two-to-one.

She led Zeldin by 14 points – 53% to 39% – according to a Siena College Poll released in early August, with polling since then showing Hochul leading by larger and smaller margins.

Governor Hochul
The two candidates are running for governor in the election on November 8.
Ron Adar / M10s /

More money for ads and other campaign outreach could particularly benefit Zeldin, who the Siena Poll suggested remained unknown to 41% of likely voters compared to 13% for Hochul, who became governor last August following the resignation of disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid a multitude of scandals.

That same Siena Poll showed 63% of respondents have an unfavorable view of Trump, whose fundraising efforts Hochul is now banking might help her beat Zeldin.

“Zeldin will do and say whatever it takes to appeal to the far-right, even if it means raising money alongside the disgraced former president. His blind loyalty to Trump is too dangerous for New York,” Hochul campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said in a statement Sunday night.

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