Donald Trump helps Lee Zeldin as NY governor race heats up

Former president Donald Trump's appearance could give a fundraising boost to Lee Zeldin, who if elected, would be New York's first Jewish Republican governor.

Former US President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower the day after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, US, August 9, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)
Former US President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower the day after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, US, August 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)

Former president Donald Trump made an appearance over Labor Day weekend at a fundraiser in Deal, New Jersey for Rep. Lee Zeldin's New York gubernatorial campaign ahead of the November 8 election against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. The ex-commander-in-chief's support comes after he avoided getting involved in the GOP primary for the party's nomination earlier this summer.

Trump praised his administration’s success on efforts such as moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem while acknowledging Zeldin as someone who had leaned on his support dating back to his first congressional run in 2014, local media reported. 

 US Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, US August 26, 2020. (credit: 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) US Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, US August 26, 2020. (credit: 2020 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The former president's appearance on Sunday could give a fundraising boost to Zeldin, who if elected, would be New York's first Jewish Republican governor. The Long Island congressman has been significantly outraised by Hochul, who became governor last August following the resignation of disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid multiple scandals. As of mid-July, Zeldin’s campaign had about $1.6 million on hand compared to Hochul’s $11.7 million.

Will aligning with Trump help or hurt Zeldin?

In Democrat-dominated New York, Hochul’s campaign has repeatedly tried to use Zeldin’s association with Trump to their advantage, highlighting Zeldin’s votes against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In late July, a Siena College poll found just 32% of likely New York voters viewed Trump favorably. Of the 13 million total registered voters in New York, about 6.5 million are enrolled as Democrats and 2.8 million as Republicans.

Fundraiser hosts have close ties to Syrian-Jewish community— and to Trump

The fundraiser was hosted by the Chera family at their summer home — Syrian Jewish New York City real-estate moguls whose Crown Acquisitions Inc. owns Manhattan properties including the St. Regis hotel, 450 Park Avenue, 650 Madison Avenue, and the Cartier Mansion. Patriarch Stanley Chera was a longtime leader in New York’s tight-knit Syrian Jewish community and a friend of Trump's before dying of coronavirus in April 2020. Reportedly, Trump at one point had advised Chera and his wife, Frieda, to leave their New York City home for Deal, New Jersey, to avoid the virus. The Jersey Shore is home to a large Syrian Jewish community.

The family hosted a Trump fundraiser when he was running for president in 2016, but not all Cheras support Zeldin. Haim Chera, one of Stanley Chera’s three sons, has contributed at least $22,000 to Hochul’s campaign, according to state disclosure records. His son, Stanley H. Chera, chipped in another $2,500 to Hochul, who has close ties with New York's Jewish community. 

Couples paid $25,000 to attend the Sunday event on the Jersey Shore, which included admission to a VIP reception and a photo with Trump.

Those willing to forgo a photo with Trump could get in for $1,000. 

Marcy Oster/JTA contributed to this report.