Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin got a fast break in the race for governor this year, months before any voters will even be heading to the polls to cast votes in a hypothetical primary or a general election.
But Zeldin, a Long Island congressman and former state senator, believes time is the biggest asset needed for Republicans head of the 2022 statewide elections in New York.
Democrats, after all, hold all the advantages in the state, giving even a unified Republican Party an uphill battle to win statewide.
"The Democrats can waste time, waste money and fight amongst themselves and still win," he told reporters on Thursday at the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station across the Hudson River from the state Capitol. "We're in New York. Republicans can't afford to do any of that. Time is a precious commodity in a race like this."
Zeldin's two main rivals for the Republican nomination are Andrew Giuliani and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the party's nominee in 2014. Both men entered the race in the weeks after Zeldin declared.
Since announcing, Zeldin has racked up the lion's share of endorsements from county chairs, both Republican and Conservative, who will be pivotal in designating the preferred candidate status (that's not a guarantee of the nomination, but a significant leg up).
Republicans have not won statewide in New York since 2002, when George Pataki won a third and final term. Party officials hope to achieve the equivalent of an electoral bank shot in New York: Keep the base together, while also appealing to moderates who may not support the idea of a fourth Andrew Cuomo term amid a cascade of controversy.
"It seems like the parties themselves, whether it's at the state level, the local level, the county level, everyone is working together," Zeldin said, who pointed to his endorsements from disparate Republicans like Carl Paladino, Marc Molinaro, Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. John Katko.
Zeldin didn't commit to any specific criteria for a running mate beyond finding someone who is vetted and qualified.
"You're looking for someone who is capable of being governor themself," he said. "They need to be a hard worker."