Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) has served New York’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015. In 2022, he ran for governor with Trump’s endorsement, and as the race reached a dead-heat, it looked like he might actually manage to unseat incumbent Kathy Hochul (D), but ultimately lost. To keep his candidacy viable, Zeldin worked to downplay his connection to Trump and the Big Lie—and persuade voters to focus instead on crime and the economy.
Zeldin’s campaign for governor got off to a rocky start when he was accused of forging petition signatures in order to have his name also appear on the Independence Party line of the November ballots. After a Democratic state senator filed a complaint that Zeldin had submitted photocopied signatures, the state Board of Elections invalidated 13,000 of those signatures and the state senator has since pressed for a criminal investigation into the matter.
In Congress, Zeldin repeatedly voted for federal legislation limiting abortion rights and defunding Planned Parenthood. He called the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “a victory for life, for family, for the Constitution and for federalism.” Yet, as a gubernatorial candidate in a state where a clear majority of voters does not agree with his stance, he has softened his messaging to claim that he would not change existing state laws that protect abortion rights.
Earlier in his career, Zeldin served as a member of the New York State Senate from 2011–14. He also served in the Army and was an attorney for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
After the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin adhered to the GOP playbook by casting doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. He objected to certifying the Electoral College results and voted against both impeaching Trump for inciting the insurrection and establishing a special House committee to investigate it, among other measures.
January 6, 2021
- Just hours after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Zeldin voted against certifying electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. In objecting, he delivered a speech on the House floor defending “our Constitution, our republic, our future & our fellow Americans.”
- Zeldin said he was “not aware of” any of his GOP colleagues requesting presidential pardons based on their role in planning to overturn the results of the presidential election. “I associate someone asking for a pardon because of some type of crime that was committed,” he said. “And I’m not aware of any member of Congress connected to Jan. 6 or otherwise being involved in some type of crime connected to the 2020 election.”
- Zeldin voted against impeaching Trump for instigating the attack on Congress and for fanning the flames by targeting Vice President Pence once the riot broke out. When asked if he thought Trump should have done something to stop the attack on the Capitol, Zeldin said “I honestly don’t.” He also claimed that the attack did “not meet the elements of an insurrection.”
- Zeldin was the only member of the Long Island congressional delegation to vote against establishing a House committee to investigate the genesis of the assault that disrupted the certification process.
The Big Lie
- Text messages provided by former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol reveal that Zeldin texted him “2 ideas” for undermining the legitimacy of Biden’s win. Before news networks had even called the election in early November, he suggested Meadows “upload vetted voting irregularities (videos, etc) onto one narrowly focused, credible microsite with a donation link for the Presidents [sic] legal fund for all of us to reference.”
- On Dec. 5, 2020, Zeldin tweeted: “Elections are not error proof or tamper proof. Many people believe ballot integrity doesn’t matter if your candidate wins. It doesn’t work like that. Ballot integrity ALWAYS matters regardless of the circumstances & regardless of whether the issue impacts one vote or thousands.”
- On Dec. 10, 2020, Zeldin signed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the results of the presidential election in four swing states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
- In defending his decision not to certify Biden’s Electoral College win, Zeldin said, “This debate is necessary because rogue election officials, secretaries of state and courts circumvented state election laws.”
- When Hochul’s campaign reminded New Yorkers of Zeldin’s eagerness to help overturn the 2020 presidential election, his campaign representative brushed it off by saying, “You know Kathy Hochul is desperate when she’d rather obsess over a text message sent at the beginning of November before the election was even called, rather than focusing on the issues most important to New Yorkers…”