Wilson walks back debate claim Zeldin asked him to team up

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson is walking back remarks implying that fellow contender U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin had asked him to campaign as a candidate for lieutenant governor.

During the Monday night GOP primary debate, Wilson — fed up with attacks from Zeldin — said his opponent had just months ago thought highly enough of him that “he asked me to be on his ticket.”

“I never asked, and I wouldn’t ask, Never Trumper Harry Wilson to be my lieutenant governor,” Zeldin replied.

Wilson shot back: “January 12 you did. I’ve got the notes from that conversation. Don’t lie.”’

Zeldin said there was a “zero percent chance” he would have considered Wilson.

“I wouldn’t want you to serve as lieutenant governor. I asked Alison Esposito,” Zeldin said, referring to his own lieutenant governor pick.

“You asked, stop lying,” Wilson said. “She was the 15th person you asked and you know it.”

Tuesday, though Wilson clarified that Zeldin had asked him to run as state comptroller as part of his slate of candidates — not lieutenant governor.

He said he never heard Zeldin say “lieutenant governor” during the exchange because the two candidates were talking over each other.

“On January 12th, Mr. Zeldin told me that he was a ‘Harry Wilson fan,’ that I was ‘massively talented’ and a ‘fantastic candidate’ and asked me if I would consider serving as the 2022 comptroller candidate because he wanted to ‘put together an insider ticket to win everything,’” Wilson said. “I politely declined his suggestion. I raised it on the debate stage on Monday night to highlight the rank hypocrisy demonstrated by Mr. Zeldin’s dishonest attacks.”

The Republican field also includes former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani, the son of New York City’s former mayor.

Zeldin, a Trump ally and Army veteran who has represented New York’s 1st Congressional District since 2015, is the favored candidate of the party’s state leadership.

Wilson, of Johnstown, entered the race this spring by launching a $12 million television advertisement campaign. He’s worked for Goldman Sachs and founded a White Plains advisory firm, and also served as a U.S. Treasury Department advisor under former President Barack Obama.