New York Republicans wrapped up two days of their state party convention on Long Island this week to endorse a slate of candidates they hope highlights the state's diversity and will break a Democratic stranglehold on state offices.
Nevertheless, Republicans face a daunting challenge ahead of them even if the year nationally will shape up to be a successful one for the party. And a potential gubernatorial primary looms.
Here are four takeaways from the state GOP convention:
1. A primary is on the way.
Twelve years ago, Republicans left their convention by endorsing former Rep. Rick Lazio. He was not the choice of the state party chairman at the time, Ed Cox, who had wanted to endorse a conservative Democrat, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
Ultimately, Republican voters had something very different in mind: populist businessman Carl Paladino, who was ultimately the party's nominee following a direct primary victory over Lazio.
The 2022 convention was nowhere the chaos and uncertainty of a dozen years ago. And Rep. Lee Zeldin, the party's designated candidate, has far more support within the party than Lazio ever did.
Still, Zeldin is likely to face a primary challenge from at least one or even all three of his rivals for nomination. Businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and former Trump administration official Andrew Giuliani have all vowed to move forward with taking their case directly to GOP voters this June.
Like Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on the Democratic side, they will have to petition their way onto the ballot, collecting tens of thousands of signatures in the costly and time-consuming process.
Astorino, the party's nominee in 2014, pointed to his experience from eight years ago.
"When they see who can get elected and how, and that's me because of I've won in blue areas like Westchester, and the Hudson Valley, which is crucial to win statewide, then the Republicans are going to support me," he said. "We're going to have support all over the state."
2. Republicans hope issues will matter
November is many political lifetimes from now. But Republicans believe there are key, intractable issues facing voters right now that will carry over into the fall. That includes concerns like violent crime and public safety, as well as the economic stress caused by the pandemic in the form of inflationary price increases that have stretched household budgets.
It remains to be seen if voters will punish Democratic officeholders for the current state of the world. Many issues, including world events that drive up the cost of gasoline, are out of the control of governors.
And already Democratic officials have made changes amid Republican criticism.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, seeking a full term this year, dropped plans for making local zoning law changes for accessory dwelling units after some of her fellow Democrats in the state Senate raised concerns. Hochul also ended the mask mandate in schools following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, but also a day before Republicans began their convention. The polarizing mask issue for schools did not emerge as a dominant theme at the convention.
It remains to be seen if Hochul will step in to call more forcefully for changes to the state's bail law which largely ended cash bail requirements for many crimes. Democratic leaders have expressed deep unease with making any changes, and have said adding a dangerousness standard to repeat offenders being remanded to jail as some Democrats and Republicans have called for, has the potential to effect people of color more than white defendants.
3. No more Cuomo
Republicans for the last decade had cast Andrew Cuomo as their main villain at their conventions. But Cuomo, who has used the muscle of millions of dollars in campaign cash to easily win re-election three times, won't appear on the ballot this November.
Republicans have also seemingly moved on as well. Some candidates, like Republican House hopeful Marc Molinaro and Astorino, pointed to their bonafides by having challenged Cuomo in the past.
But unlike previous conventions, Cuomo's name was rarely invoked beyond being thrown into a mix of officials who have resigned amid a cloud of scandal in a speech by state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Democrats quickly sought to move on from the former governor at their convention, fully backing Hochul's bid for a full term. It seems Republicans, for the most part, have too.
4. A Trump factor?
Former President Donald Trump remains popular with rank-and-file Republicans as well as the base of the party. Nevertheless, few of the statewide candidates mentioned Trump, who remains anathema to many voters in a broader general election. Trump lost the suburbs, and he lost independents, two overlapping blocs of voters Republicans will need in a general election.
The sole outlier was Andrew Giuliani, who arrived at the party convention with his father, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Andrew has been a defender of both his father and Trump's presidency.
"This is the party of Trump; it's also the party of Giuliani," he said.
For now, however, Trump is yet to fully jump into New York campaigns with full-throated endorsements.