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Rep. Zeldin taking supporters’ calls about running for RNC chair, longtime adviser says

Zeldin surprised Republicans by making the New York governor's race more competitive than had been expected.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., at an election night event in New York on Nov. 8, 2022.
Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who lost his bid to unseat Democrat Kathy Hochul as New York's governor, said that crime would continue to plague the state and that Hochul needs to "step in and crack down."Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who lost a surprisingly close race for governor last week, has spoken with GOP elected officials and party activists who want him to run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, his media consultant said.

“He has received calls from around the country,” John Brabender said Sunday. “It’s likely that he will at least explore it. … He’s fielding calls, talking to people, listening to them, but it has not gone beyond that.”

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has not said whether she will seek re-election at the party’s winter meeting in January, nor has Tommy Hicks, the co-chair. Under the party’s rules, the top two posts must be held by one man and one woman.

With former President Donald Trump expected to announce a third bid for the presidency Tuesday, and with many of the top-tier candidates he endorsed — and who pushed his 2020 election lie — having lost in the midterms, Republican officials have been buzzing about who might take the reins if not the Trump-picked McDaniel and Hicks.

The RNC’s spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment Sunday evening.

The party is coming off a disappointing midterm election in which it failed to take the Senate, and with several races and control of the House still undetermined, predictions of the GOP’s winning a comfortable majority did not materialize.

Zeldin, a four-term House member from Long Island, lost to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul by 53% to 47% — in a state where Trump lost by 22 percentage points in 2020.  Many Republicans have pointed to Zeldin’s overperformance at the top of the ticket as a force in helping Republicans flip four House seats in the state, most notably that of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., praised Zeldin on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, although did not address a possible RNC bid.

“Even in places where we came up a little bit short, like Lee Zeldin’s race for governor in New York, he performed very well compared to Republicans in recent elections, and he probably helped save the House of Representatives by bringing four new Republican congressmen-elect across the finish line in New York,” Cotton said.