Zeldin eyes RNC chairmanship after midterm loss

A Zeldin bid for RNC leadership would follow unsuccessful challenges to the party's current major figures in Congress.
Lee Zeldin, Jan. 2020

New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is reportedly mulling a bid to chair the Republican National Committee following his loss in New York's gubernatorial race to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

In an email to RNC members, which Politico obtained, Zeldin indicated he is "very seriously considering" a play for party leadership.

"It is time for our party to retool, transform, win back the Presidency in 2024, expand our number of Republican-held seats in Congress, and elect the maximum number of down-ballot races across the country... The Republican Party needs to be all in to do everything in its power to save America," he wrote.

The would-be GOP leader further encouraged the party to change course and work to win over voters in communities that traditionally skew heavily toward the Democrats.

"Not only should the Republican Party compete in all 50 states, and ensure we are driving up turnout within our base, but we also need to go to all communities no matter how blue they are, show up often, build relationships, and advance our proposals on education, upward economic mobility, housing, mental health, public safety, and more," he wrote.

"This means making sure people know what we stand for, and not just what we are against."

Zeldin will exit the House when his current term expires in January. Though he failed to unseat Hochul, analysts noted that Zeldin ran an unusually strong campaign in the traditionally blue state, finishing a relatively narrow six points behind his incumbent opponent. In 2018, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro by 23 percentage points, while in 2014 he defeated Rob Astorino by 14. 

The GOP also managed to pick up House seats in the state following a favorable redistricting effort.

Nationwide, the GOP underperformed polling expectations during the 2022 midterms, just narrowly taking back control of the House of Representatives and failing to claim control of the Senate. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has since faced criticism over the party's poor performance, though she has indicated she will seek to retain her seat, according to Politico. 

A Zeldin bid for RNC leadership would follow unsuccessful challenges to the party's current major figures in Congress.

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs unsuccessfully challenged current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for the GOP's top post in the House this month, while Florida Sen. Rick Scott  likewise failed to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.