Zeldin picks police veteran as running mate in race for New York governor

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NEW YORK NOW – Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican party’s presumptive nominee for governor, has picked Alison Esposito from the New York City Police Department as his preferred choice for lieutenant governor, he said Wednesday.

Esposito, a decades-long veteran of the NYPD who currently serves as a deputy inspector at a Brooklyn precinct, will now seek the Republican nomination for the office in June.

So far, none of Zeldin’s challengers on the Republican line have announced a running mate. That leaves Esposito, for the time being, without her own challenger in the race for lieutenant governor.

In New York, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separate from each other ahead of the primary election. Then, whoever wins the two top spots form a unified ticket and run together in the November general election.

Esposito joined Zeldin to announce her decision to join the ticket Wednesday in Manhattan, where she focused on policies out of Albany that, she said, have tipped the scales away from members of law enforcement.

“While accountability in any profession is an absolute necessity, today’s lawmakers have shackled the hands of law enforcement with irresponsible restrictions, while simultaneously allowing violent criminals to operate with impunity,” Esposito said.

To support that point, she pointed to policies like the Less is More Act, a new law that will soon allow those released on parole to avoid reincarceration based on technical violations, like showing up late to a meeting or missing an assigned curfew.

Supporters of that law have said it will help those previously incarcerated more easily integrate into society after they’ve served their sentence. Opponents have said it will let offenders off the hook for bad behavior post-release. The new law is set to take effect next month.

Before she was named a deputy inspector with the NYPD, Esposito worked in the department’s Emergency Services Unit. Before that, she was part of a plain clothes unit of officers focused on addressing street crime.

The Zeldin-Esposito ticket isn’t a sure bet just yet. Zeldin is being challenged for the Republican nomination for governor by at least four other candidates.

new poll from the Siena Research Institute showed this week that 62% of registered voters — including 57% of Republicans — either didn’t know who Zeldin was, or didn’t have an opinion on him. That could create an opening for his challengers.

Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is polling higher than Zeldin among Republicans. About half of Republicans surveyed in the poll said they view Giuliani as favorable. Only a quarter said they didn’t know who he was.

The race could be upended by the late entrance of businessman Harry Wilson into the Republican primary for governor this week.

Wilson, who ran for state comptroller in 2010 and came close to winning, has been courted by Republicans to run for governor in the past few election cycles. He wasn’t thought to be interested in running this year, but made the surprise announcement this week.

The primary for governor will be held on June 28.