Supporters of Rep. Lee Zeldin's bid for governor entered Cipriani's in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night giddy with anticipation. Their man, it was widely seen, had the best shot becoming the first New York Republican governor in decades.
They're going to have to wait another four years.
New York Republicans will remain in the political wilderness in New York following Tuesday night's statewide losses. Zeldin was defeated by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, while the party's candidates for state attorney general, comptroller and U.S. Senate all lost their bids.
Democrats will retain their majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, giving them every lever of power in Albany.
As the results came in Tuesday night, the enthusiasm that was omnipresent on the campaign trail for Zeldin leaked out of the room like air from a balloon.
"We're down three million votes in enrollment," said New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy. "It's a very uphill climb to win a statewide office here."
Democrats have more than six million enrolled voters in New York compared to fewer than 2.9 million for Republicans, who are outnumbered by registered voters not enrolled in either party.
Zeldin had hoped to compete in Democratic heavy New York City with a message on public safety and crime. But in these polarizing times, getting significant Democratic crossover votes is difficult.
Republicans had also seen momentum for Zeldin in the final days of the race as he received backing from independent expenditure committees and Republicans with national profiles, like Florida's Ron DeSantis.
Langworthy began this cycle hoping to pull off an upset and win back the governor's office for the party. He's now going to Congress, having won a western New York House seat.
Republicans also quietly prided themselves on putting forth a ticket that looked like New York: Zeldin would have been New York's third Jewish governor; Alison Esposito its first openly gay woman to serve as lieutenant governor; Paul Rodriguez the first Hispanic man to serve as comptroller.
"It's a diverse ticket, but it's also a qualified ticket," said John Burnett, the executive vice chairman of the state party.
Republicans do have some bright spots they can point to this year, including victories in New York City suburbs they hope to build on. Once all the votes are counted, the race for governor is likely to be the narrowest victory for a Democrat in years.
Still, Republicans acknowledged work needs to be done if the party wants statewide power again.
"There's always room to grow, room to build, lessons to be learned," Langworthy said.