Ms. Hochul is “a refreshing change from all of the nonsense that people were subjected to,” said former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, a Republican who said he has not yet decided how he will vote. “That’s going to be much tougher for Republicans, notwithstanding that the congressman, Lee Zeldin, is a very fine person, he’s done a good job. I think the Trump business, though, is going to hurt him.”
Asked about those dynamics, Mr. Zeldin argued that voters are animated by other issues and said he was focused on “reversing the attacks on wallets, safety, freedom and our kids’ education.”
But there is no question that Mr. Trump will be a factor both in the coming months of the primary and in the general election.
Mr. Wilson, who has pledged to spend roughly $10 million of his own money in the race, is viewed privately by some Democrats as a stronger general election contender, but it has often been difficult for candidates who did not support Mr. Trump to make it through Republican primaries. Mr. Wilson voted for him in 2016 but wrote in Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, in 2020, he said.
Mr. Wilson, the party’s 2010 nominee for comptroller, is casting himself as an outsider with a record of turning around companies and a focus on matters of public safety, the economy and quality of life. He and Mr. Zeldin have both started spending on airtime.
“We desperately need capable, rational leadership in Albany,” he said.
Representative Tom Reed, a Republican in the state’s Southern Tier who is set to retire this year, said he was concerned that his party was headed for a messy primary that could undercut its chances in a race for governor that is already an “uphill battle.”
“My hope is that it’s not bloody, that it’s not negative and we get through it as quickly as possible and unite,” said Mr. Reed, who was contemplating his own bid for governor before he was accused of inappropriately touching a lobbyist. “Because we all know winning the governor’s office in New York is a very, very difficult path to traverse for a Republican, even in a wave year.”