You might be surprised to hear this from the president of a Democratic organization, but it’s true: At this moment, we need Rep. Lee Zeldin, Republican candidate for governor.
New Era Democrats was founded after the 1982 gubernatorial race, when we supported Democratic candidate Mario Cuomo. At that moment, our founders believed New York needed to engage new voters and reinvigorate the electorate by supporting someone outside the party machine.
NED has evolved over the years into an independent political association, still believing in “democratic principles.” We welcome voters from all parties tired of divisive politics and political-party machinery. In 2013, we endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor, a friend and someone we had hoped would bring communities together.
NED several years ago started to see the shift in the Democratic Party philosophy, alienating many lifelong Democratic voters. In 2021, we endorsed Andrew Yang in the mayoral primary. At that moment, we felt the city needed an independent thinker to help us recover from the pandemic. Crime and public safety became the primary issue, and Andrew lost. After the election, the Big Tent Party became a little smaller when he departed.
Why Lee Zeldin, why now? Rising crime continues to be an issue for New Yorkers. The Democratic mayor of New York’s largest locality has repeatedly asked the governor and Legislature to reform the bail laws. Just this week, the NYPD commissioner penned an op-ed detailing the crime numbers and writing that criminals “are exploiting the reforms intended to help the majority of low-level, first-time offenders.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s response has been: Let’s wait and see. The Legislature is not back in session until January.
New Era Democrats is an organization that welcomes differing opinions and open debate, and we’re troubled by Hochul’s recent comments urging Republicans and Zeldin to move to Florida. US Census data reports 350,000 people left the state in a single year, and we lost another congressional seat this cycle. The truth is Democrats and liberals are abandoning New York, too.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority continues to be one of the worst-run transportation systems in the world. The governor’s solution? Congestion pricing. We have been paying MTA surcharges on our utility bills and taxi rides for years. Where is the money?
In reality, crime and homelessness are rampant, the public does not feel safe, and people are nervous about public transportation post-COVID. And the congestion-pricing plan will devastate an already-crippled taxi and for-hire-vehicle industry struggling to recover. We cannot tax our way back into recovery. Congestion pricing will affect minimum-wage and working-class New Yorkers just as harshly.
NED endorses Lee Zeldin for governor. Lee, with two daughters, is family man concerned for his family, like most of us, and Lee’s family looks like New York. He’s traveling all over the state listening to New Yorkers.
Lee will work with Democrats, as he did in the state Senate, to provide reasonable solutions for our most pressing issues. Lee will investigate the COVID nursing-home failures so we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
NED’s appeal to Democrats and independents is this: The race is about New York and its future, regardless of party affiliations and national politics. Public safety has been compromised, and New York has been mismanaged. Democratic governments were designed with checks and balances — and currently there are none in New York state.
The moderate voices of the Democratic Party are either going along to get along, too afraid to ruffle feathers, or have been silenced. We can no longer afford to be a one-issue voter. Lee will bring much-needed balance back to New York.
The issues are tangible: We see the vacant storefronts. We see the mentally ill/homeless on the streets with no hope. We feel the effects of the drug and opioid crisis destroying families. We are spending and borrowing more, and we are watching the value of our life savings decrease. We know the failed policies that killed thousands of elderly people in nursing homes.
We know, at this moment, we need a change — a balance of power and someone who will invite all parties to the table. That change is Lee Zeldin.
John Orlando is president of New Era Democrats.