Rep. Lee Zeldin's campaign for governor of New York got a $1.5 million boost Sunday night from an appearance by former President Donald Trump at a New Jersey fundraiser Sunday afternoon.
According to audio from the event obtained by the New York Post, Trump both touted his administration's event while praising Zeldin, who represents New York's 1st Congressional District and is campaigning against incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Zeldin, Trump said, helped him survive "impeachment hoax number one and impeachment hoax number two and a lot of scams … I had these maniacs against me. He was one of those great voices."
Zeldin likewise praised Trump, commenting that "there are people you meet in politics who you refer to as friends. They're the people who show up the day after you win. They tell you they were there the whole time. I'm pretty sure they weren't. But then they are our friends."
He also noted that Trump has "strong supporters – people who believe in him, people who believe that his policies are right for America and that his policies still to this day are right for America."
The event was held at the Long Branch, New Jersey home of the Chera family, which is tied to the St. Regis New York Hotel. The Asbury Park Press reports that the former president has held two fundraisers for his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 at the home.
The estate had belonged to late New York real estate tycoon Stanley Chera, who had been a prominent member of the Sephardic Syrian Jewish community and a friend of Trump's. He died of COVID in April 2020, The Press reports.
Attendance for the fundraiser was $1,000 per person, with a VIP reception priced at $5,000; a photo opportunity at $25,000; and being designated as an "event chair" costing $100,000, according to an invitation to the event.
Zeldin is still facing a huge fundraising gap in the governor's race against Hochul, who is arguing that his support for Trump means he is too extreme to serve, reports The Post.
"Zeldin is desperately looking for cash and a path forward by doubling down on his allegiance to the far-right MAGA agenda," her campaign said in a recent press release.
Sunday's fundraising tally appears to be giving Hochul more ammunition in her arguments against Zeldin and his connections with the former president.
"Zeldin will do and say whatever it takes to appeal to the far-right, even if it means raising money alongside the disgraced former president," her campaign spokesman, Jerrell Harvey, said in a statement Sunday night. "His blind loyalty to Trump is too dangerous for New York."
According to campaign filings from July, Hochul's campaign had $11.7 million on hand, in comparison to $1.6 million for Zeldin. Trump did not endorse the congressman before his primary win in June.
Zeldin insists, though, that he can still become New York's first GOP governor since George Pataki's election in 2002.
"The prediction was that George Pataki was going to lose by 11.5 points, and that wasn't on Labor Day weekend," Zeldin said Sunday. "That was the week before the election. And George Pataki just days later went on to make history. We elected a Republican governor."
In addition to being ahead by fundraising, Hochul is leading in polls in the heavily Democrat State.
According to a Siena College Poll in August, Hochul was ahead by 14 percentage points. The same poll showed that 63% of respondents had an unfavorable view of Trump.
However, a new Trafalgar Group poll shows the gap may be closing between the candidates, with Zeldin being just percentage points outside the margin of error and Hochul holding a lead of 4.4 points.
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