Which New York Republicans Are Kissing Trump's Ring in Cleveland?
With a couple of notable outliers, New York State’s congressional Republicans have long toed the line of moderation. But next week, their party will descend on Cleveland to commit itself to the leadership and whims of a xenophobic New Yorker who wants to build a giant wall along our southern border, immediately deport 11 million immigrants, and ban all Muslims from entering the country.
The Voice checked in on each of New York’s nine congressional Republicans on the eve of the Republican National Convention to see if they would be showing face in Cleveland. While some are more fervently behind the candidate than others, only one has outright opposed him. An elephant never forgets, especially when it comes to who supported Donald J. Trump for president.
Lee Zeldin (Long Island’s East End): TRUMP SUPPORTER
The freshman congressman from Long Island’s East End will be attending the Republican National Convention, his office confirmed. An army veteran, Zeldin endorsed Trump immediately after Trump clinched the Republican nomination in May. He’s proven a more than willing surrogate for Trump, even going so far as to appear on CNN in June to refute Trump’s alleged racism, and declaring that President Obama was the real culprit for worsening race relations in the country. "You can easily argue that the President of the United States is a racist based on his rhetoric and his policies," Zeldin said at the time. Zeldin is facing a competitive re-election battle, but his district came out in especially high numbers for Trump during the state’s Republican primary, meaning he’s going to try and ride Trump’s vomit-stained coattails as far as possible.
Chris Collins (Clarence): TRUMP SUPPORTER
Collins will be attending the convention, his office confirmed to the Voice. Collins, a moderate Republican, had previously endorsed Jeb Bush, but he shocked upstate Republicans in February when he became the first member of congress to endorse Trump. Since then, Collins has become Trump’s main ally in congress, setting up meetings between Trump and fellow representatives (with mixed results). Collins has also taken a lot of money from Trump supporter and cartoonish poop-slinger Carl Paladino, which just might explain why this one-time centrist has swung so far to the right.
Given Peter King’s long history of islamophobia and racism, he would seem to be a perfect fit for Team Trump, but the long-tenured representative has been somewhat critical of the reality show star. That doesn’t mean King won’t be stumping for Trump or skipping off to the RNC though — his office confirmed that he’ll be going to Cleveland next week. King said back in March that he might have to leave politics if Trump won the nomination, although by May he had changed his tune, declaring support for the real estate developer. At the time of his endorsement, King said he wished that Trump would become a bit more "coherent" on certain issues, like foreign policy and his stance toward Vladimir Putin, and while that coherence certainly hasn’t come to pass, King will still be lending his name and reputation to the nominee next week.
The former Staten Island district attorney who rode his infamy from the non-indictment of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner all the way to a seat in Congress is attending the RNC and standing fully behind his party’s candidate. In a statement to the Voice, his office wrote that "Congressman Donovan is supporting Mr. Trump and strongly believes that Hillary Clinton has disqualified herself for the job of the presidency." At a press conference in May, Donovan told reporters that he "agrees with Donald Trump 60 percent of the time," which is apparently enough to back him as the leader of the free world. Donovan has highlighted his disagreement with Trump on immigration, Muslims, and women’s rights, but said there were other things he really agreed with him on, although wouldn’t specify exactly what.
One of the earliest supporters of Trump in the state, Reed will be attending the convention, his office told the Voice. "I am focused on being a positive voice in this political process by pushing for fair, commonsense policies that help our families," he said in a statement, citing a need to unite the party as a reason for his support.
The youngest woman ever elected to congress has recently voiced her support for Trump, but will not be attending the Republican convention. Instead, Stefanik will "be in the district working for her constituents," according to her office. In a radio interview earlier this month, Stefanik offered a tepid endorsement, saying that, "Given the choice in this election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in this election [sic], I will support Donald Trump this November." Paladino, the aforementioned Trump super-booster, has been operating a smear campaign against Stefanik all year long for her initial hesitance to endorse Trump, and then her lukewarm offer of support. In an email to donors this March, Paladino wrote, "80 percent of her constituents want Trump and she gives me the bull that she is too focused on her district to consider endorsing in the presidential primary. She needs to learn what treachery means." Luckily for Stefanik, she won’t be running into Paladino in Cleveland.
Gibson's office told the Voice that he will not be attending the Republican National Convention. Gibson, who is not seeking reelection and has pledged to leave politics altogether for a position at Williams College, previously expressed concern about making Donald Trump commander in chief (imagine that!). A veteran himself, Gibson told a radio program last December that "as someone who served for 29 years, I have concerns given what I’ve heard to date about his temperament and the judgment he has." Since then, Gibson has remained relatively quiet on Trump, and his office declined to elaborate on the reason for the representative skipping out on his party’s convention. In a June interview, he said he was still undecided on who he was voting for, but it was certainly not Hillary Clinton.
Katko will not be attending the convention, his office tells us. Katko, who is in the middle of a tough reelection campaign, said Wednesday that he has no plans to support the Republican nominee. In an interview with Syracuse.com, Katko reiterated his earlier stance that Trump was not fit to be president, and that "the fact that he is even in the race right now — given how poorly the campaign has gone the last couple of months — is pretty remarkable." In the interview, Katko claims that his decision not to attend the convention had nothing to do with his decision not to back Trump, and that he’d always planned to spend the week in his district. "I will note that there is a perceptible change in his tone and demeanor in the last week or so, which is encouraging. But we will have to see if that is short-lived, or a real change in direction," he said. Pressed by the Voice on whether he would have attended the convention had someone else been the nominee, the congressman’s office declined to comment.
According to his office, Hanna will not be attending the Republican National Convention. Like Gibson, Hanna is not seeking reelection, but instead of remaining on the sidelines of the Trump debate, Hanna has come out loudly against the Republican nominee. In a March interview, Hanna said that the Republican primary campaigns were "beneath the dignity of the American people," and that the party’s "unwillingness to to push back on the most mean-spirited, bigoted positions is hurting our party, and rightfully so...I want someone to be president that my children can look up to." Hanna's office declined to elaborate on his decision to skip the convention.
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