Republicans Candidates For Governor Meet In Debate

On June 13, 2022, the Republican candidates for governor of New York held a debate in New York City. All four candidates—former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, former special assistant to the president Andrew Giuliani, businessman Harry Wilson, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) are seeking to become the Republican candidate for governor—participated.

Regarding crime, all four candidates stated that they would fire controversial Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg due to his unwillingness to fully enforce the law. The candidates were also united in their support for Second Amendment rights; Astorino and Zeldin called for the repeal of the SAFE Act. Candidates Giuliani, Wilson, and Zeldin all expressed a desire to make changes to the state’s bail reform law.

Candidates Astorino, Giuliani, and Zeldin all called for the reinstatement of New York City workers who lost their jobs due to noncompliance with COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Astorino and Zeldin would demand that the mayor of New York City rehire those workers, and Astorino and Giuliani each suggested that the workers be placed on the state payroll. Wilson indicated that this issue was not within the control of the governor.

All four candidates support term limits for elected officials, and all four oppose congestion pricing in New York City.

Candidates Astorino, Giuliani and Zeldin expressed concern over the prospect of teaching LGBTQ history in New York schools. Astorino asserted that sexual issues should not be discussed with five-year-olds and that instruction on critical race theory (CRT) is divisive. Giuliani stated that sexualization of children in lower grades is inappropriate and spoke approvingly of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act. Zeldin opposed the use of classroom instruction for age-inappropriate material, divisive material, or agenda-pushing. Both Giuliani and Zeldin noted that parents are the ultimate authority as to what their children should be taught. In contrast, Wilson indicated that social issues were not the most important issues in education; rather, he argued that schools should focus on civics education about American exceptionalism and on helping students catch up on the learning that they have missed during the pandemic.

On the question of abortion, candidates Astorino, Giuliani, and Zeldin identified as pro-life. Astorino spoke of the need to help pregnant women, especially low-income women. He also mentioned pro-life pregnancy centers and spoke against the recent arson attack on a Buffalo-area pregnancy center. Giuliani asserted that there was a contradiction between Democrats’ desire to give people a choice about abortion, but not about vaccinations. Zeldin spoke against late-term abortion and abortions performed by non-physicians and expressed support for parental consent and informed consent. Wilson, the only Republican candidate that identifies as pro-choice, stated that he was uncomfortable with some extreme aspects of New York’s abortion expansion law, but added that he would not seek to change that law and was not a social-issues candidate.