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First GOP gubernatorial primary in a decade has candidates crossing New York looking for support

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - For the first time in over a decade, Republican primary voters will be choosing who will be the GOP candidate in the race for governor of New York this year. Candidates have been crisscrossing the state looking for support in advance of this year's primary.

Running in a statewide race as a Republican in an overwhelmingly blue state has always been a challenge. But the candidates believe the door is cracked open a bit more this year. There’s no incumbent, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s poll numbers are falling, and her lieutenant governor was arrested on corruption charges and resigned from office last month. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, is one of the Republicans who’d like the job.

"It’s the biggest opportunity in forever as Republicans. Maybe the last chance,” Astorino said during a stop in Syracuse Monday. “So Republicans got to get it right."

Astorino is one of four candidates expected to be on the primary ballot. The front runner is Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island), who has the support of most of the GOP party apparatus after last month’s Republican Party convention. And he said Republican chances this year are also buoyed by two big issues: crime and the economy.

"We want New Yorkers to feel safe, secure and free in New York, and we want them to feel like the attack on their wallet is being reversed,” Zeldin said. “This is a rescue mission to save our state."

Both Zeldin and Astorino turned up in Syracuse Monday to talk to reporters just a block from each other. Zeldin, putting forth a 10-point plan he says will boost transparency and accountability in Albany, that includes term limits and easier access to lawmakers from the press.

"The best thing to do to change actually doesn’t require a bill, doesn’t require an executive order,” Zeldin said. “It’s about integrity, it’s about leadership style."

Astorino told reporters what separates him from the other candidates, is experience dealing with a Democratic majority.

"Who can win in November is the biggest question Republicans have to answer,” Astorino said. “I know I can get elected, because I did it in Westchester which is a 3-to-1 Democratic county, and here I am a conservative Republican."

Also running in the primary are businessman Harry Wilson, who’s putting $12 million of his own money into a campaign with the theme “Let’s Turn Around New York” and Andrew Guiliani, a former Trump administration official, and son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

As of now, the primary is scheduled for June 28, but that could change. A judge threw out the state’s Congressional and state Senate district maps last week, pushing those primaries to August. State lawmakers are considering moving all primaries to the later August date to avoid holding two separate primaries before November’s general election.