“I always said I was going to be genuine with voters,” he said in an interview Wednesday with POLITICO. “Whether they voted for me, or whether they didn’t, at least they can say that I was honest and was as genuine as possible.”
The younger Giuliani was resolute that his father’s outsized role in the campaign and his support of Trump didn’t hurt his chances.
“Look, I’m not going to shy away from the fact that I worked four years for President Trump, and I’m certainly proud of my father and his many accomplishments. So whether that had a positive effect, whether it had a negative effect on voters, I’ll let other people break that down.”
If this year’s Republican primaries are a barometer of the Trump brand’s continued salience in the party, the New York race was unique in that it extended to the legacy of his most colorful lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
And an initial conclusion after Rep. Lee Zeldin’s comfortable win is that the Giuliani name still hits, but not quite as hard as it used to.
Andrew Giuliani, 36, came in second by more than 20 percentage points behind the party favorite, Zeldin. But the younger Giuliani still carried most of his native New York City, showing regional, if not statewide, influence.
The state party this year sought some distance from Trump. Not so with Giuliani. Though he’s never held elected office, Giuliani based his campaign on his years working as an adviser in the Trump White House and his father’s regular presence on the campaign trail.
When asked what Andrew Giuliani’s performance in the race indicated about both Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s continued influence among Republicans, State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said the family legacy has laid a path for the candidate, who he said “ran an admirable race.”
“Listen, Mayor Giuliani was our leader during 9/11,” Langworthy said. “He’s certainly well known and well regarded by many, and that name has a lot of strength. Andrew’s a young, fresh face, and I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
The Giuliani campaign went better than some expected, with his favorability among Republican voters polling near or above Zeldin’s throughout the campaign despite sizable discrepancies in funding and endorsements.
To the surprise of some prepared for a more combative Trump brand, Giuliani revealed himself as an affable candidate, regularly accessible to media and taking a good-natured openness to new experiences, such as befriending bovines amid a bull semen auction upstate.
During one debate he attempted to dial down his opponents’ more laborious accusations of lying, imploring Zeldin and businessman Harry Wilson: “Let’s be mature here, guys. Let’s talk about the issues.”
He boldly appealed to the right-wing of the party, suggesting that he believed Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. He promised to mirror both Trump and his father if elected, and though he didn’t get an explicit Trump endorsement, he earned the blessing of Trump confidantes such as Steve Bannon, who described him as “born of the grit of two warriors.”
He was only able to attend one of three televised debates in person because he is not vaccinated for Covid-19.
But it was his father who drove the more sensational headlines down to the final hours of the campaign, reporting an apparently exaggerated assault from a Staten Island ShopRite employee while stumping for his son over the weekend.
The primary also coincided with a day in which the former president’s legacy was further damaged amid new claims that Trump attempted to join the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021.
Even GOP leaders say Rudy Giuliani’s presence may have cut both ways for his son: Some Republican voters might have been happy to revisit a new generation of the Giuliani brand, but others might have been turned off by the unending ties to Trump and his scandal-scarred tenure in the White House.
“Some of the issues that he got into over the past five years could have hurt a little bit, even with our base. I’m not saying a lot, but could have,” said Bernie Iacovangelo, Monroe County GOP chairman.
The more practical factor was that Andrew Giuliani — who Iacovangelo called “a wonderful young man,” with “a bright future” — had no political experience compared to Zeldin, a former state senator who is now in his fourth congressional term.
When it came to rallying support for the expected low-turnout primary, party officials were driving votes toward their preferred candidate, Zeldin. So Republican voters who might have quickly checked a box for Giuliani by name association alone might have been among those who stayed home, said former congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Faso.
“People who vote in a primary, they know who they are voting for ahead of time,” Faso said. “It’s not someone who goes in undecided and says there’s a name there I recognize. It’s a different breed of voter than a general election voter.”
And Andrew Giuliani still finished well ahead of former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was making his second run for governor, and Wilson, who spent at least $6 million of his own money on the race. Giuliani probably raised and spent no more than $1 million.
During his concession speech, Giuliani quickly implored his supporters to “lick our wounds tonight” but tomorrow “let’s get up and support the Republican nominee, Congressman Lee Zeldin, and let’s make him the 58th governor of the state of New York.”
He’s planning on being in New York politics for a while, he said. And promised to continue fighting “the way the Rudy Giulianis and the Donald Trumps have fought to hand a better city and a better country to us.”
That was always the Plan B, he said Wednesday. He’s no longer the rambunctious kid made famous when he was played by the late Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live, climbing on the podium at his father’s inauguration as mayor in 1994.
“When I spoke to Lee in the very beginning of his campaign, I told him ‘Look, you know, we’re going to be working together over the next decade to help the state of New York,” Andrew Giuliani said Wednesday,
“We’re gonna have a little brotherly fight over here over the next year, but whoever ends up coming out on top — if it goes the other way — I’ll make sure that I back you.’”
Joe Spector contributed reporting.