The gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin on Friday announced the Long Island Republican had cleared a key hurdle to become the party's preferred candidate more than a year before the June primary. 

Zeldin has quickly locked up the endorsements of county Republican leaders, securing more than 50% of the weighted vote to become the party's endorsed candidate. 

His campaign on Friday announced the endorsements of county chairs in Erie and Niagara counties.  

“As a fellow veteran, Lee Zeldin knows what it means to serve his country and fight for what he believes in, lessons he’s carried with him delivering time and time again for New Yorkers in the State Senate and Congress," said Erie County Republican Chairman Karl Simmeth. "Now, New York needs him more than ever. If we’re going to restore New York to glory, we need a new generation of leadership at the helm, and Lee Zeldin is that man. I look forward to fighting side by side with him every day to save our state.” 

The endorsements for Zeldin come less than a month after he first announced his bid for the Executive Mansion. Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat currently beset by multiple controversies, has not ruled out a bid for a fourth term in 2022. 

Becoming the party's preferred candidate is not a guarantee of success. Former Rep. Rick Lazio won the designation in 2010, only to lose the nomination in a statewide primary to businessman Carl Paladino.