HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. — On a blazing Saturday afternoon in eastern Long Island, after hours of sun-baked stump speeches by candidates of little renown, it was finally Giuliani time.
As the strains of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” filled the air, the crowd of about 200 Republican voters swooned to the sounds of an extended harangue against government mandates, socialism and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Dozens of admirers crowded nearby, shooting video or hoping to get a selfie. After the speech was over, well-wishers lined up for a chance at an autograph and a red hat bearing the surname of the man who seemed to be the featured attraction: Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Standing beside him was his son Andrew, the actual candidate in what is increasingly resembling a tandem campaign for governor of New York.
With just over two weeks to go before the Republican primary on June 28, Andrew Giuliani’s unlikely campaign has remained visible and viable in no small part because of his famous last name and the continued prominence of, and appearances by, his father, formerly the mayor of New York City and a personal lawyer of former President Donald J. Trump.
The elder Mr. Giuliani, 78, has regularly campaigned with his son since he began running for office last year, often serving as both his warm-up act and sidekick at the Israel Day Parade and at Memorial Day marches and news conferences outside City Hall.
His efforts have been welcomed by the younger Mr. Giuliani, 36, who is running a shoestring campaign, driving up and down the state in a collection of donated vans and trucks emblazoned with his face, in hopes of upsetting the party’s anointed nominee, Representative Lee M. Zeldin of Long Island.
Regardless of who wins the nomination, making it to the governor’s mansion will be an uphill battle for Republicans, who haven’t won statewide office in two decades. Their likely Democratic opponent is Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has more than $18 million in her campaign coffers, in a state in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one.
“I feel honored that he would take his time to help us get over the finish line,” Andrew Giuliani said about his father, after posing for dozens of photographs alongside him. “I feel very, very blessed.”
Political families are, of course, not uncommon in New York, where the former governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, was a son of another former governor, Mario M. Cuomo. Families like the Addabbos, the Weprins and the Diazes have all spawned father-son pairs who became lawmakers.
Nor is it really that surprising that Andrew Giuliani, who famously mugged for the camera during his father’s first inauguration in 1994, would lean on him for support: He is making his first run for public office and has a limited record to fall back on.
His primary political experience is the four years he spent in the Trump White House, serving as a special assistant to the president and working in the Office of Public Liaison — hardly classic preparation for Albany.
A Guide to New York’s 2022 Primary Elections
As prominent Democratic officials seek to defend their records, Republicans see opportunities to make inroads in general election races.
- Governor’s Race: Gov. Kathy Hochul, the incumbent, will face off against Jumaane Williams and Tom Suozzi in a Democratic primary on June 28.
- The Mapmaker: A postdoctoral fellow and former bartender redrew New York’s congressional map, reshaping several House districts and scrambling the future of the state’s political establishment.
- Maloney vs. Nadler: The new congressional lines have put the two stalwart Manhattan Democrats on a collision course in the Aug. 23 primary.
- Questionable Remarks: Carl P. Paladino, a Republican running for a House seat in Western New York, recently drew backlash for praising Adolf Hitler in an interview dating back to 2021.
Mr. Zeldin, a four-term congressman, remains far better financed, with more than $3.1 million in campaign funds as of late last month; Mr. Giuliani had about a tenth of that, according to campaign disclosure statements.
Two other candidates — Rob Astorino, the former Westchester County executive, and Harry Wilson, a corporate turnaround expert — also have more to spend than Mr. Giuliani.
And although Mr. Giuliani has a direct connection to Mr. Trump, getting his endorsement is far from assured. Mr. Zeldin is an avid Trump supporter who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election in key swing states, an effort, ironically, that Rudolph Giuliani led.
A 2008 presidential candidate who was once hailed as America’s Mayor, the elder Mr. Giuliani saw his law license suspended and his public persona tarnished, at least in some circles, as a result of his work for Mr. Trump. Those activities, in service of a false narrative of a stolen election, were given a fresh airing last week during a prime-time hearing by the House committee investigating the Capitol assault on Jan. 6, 2021.
In a recent interview on Newsmax, the right-wing network where he has appeared as a political analyst, Andrew Giuliani said that while Mr. Trump was “kind of like an uncle to me,” he did not expect an endorsement, and that he thought the former president was “probably going to sit this one out.”
That doesn’t mean the Giulianis aren’t trying: Both appeared at a recent fund-raiser hosted by Representative Elise Stefanik at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, where a round-table discussion and photo op with the former president cost $25,000 a head. Mr. Astorino was also there, mingling near the back; Mr. Zeldin had a prior commitment.
In remarks at an outdoor reception, the former president lavished praise on the younger Mr. Giuliani, but the compliments had nothing to do with his political future.
“He did talk about him, but it was all about golf,” said Gerard Kassar, the chairman of the New York Conservative Party, which has endorsed Mr. Zeldin. “I do not believe the president is getting involved in the race at all, as much as the Giuliani people want him to.”
There has been little definitive polling on the race, though Mr. Giuliani has taken to calling himself “the front-runner” as a result of a single online poll from May, something that the Zeldin campaign scoffs at, citing other polls that show Mr. Giuliani with higher unfavorable ratings than Mr. Zeldin. (Mr. Giuliani, however, has higher name recognition, with better favorable ratings than Mr. Zeldin.)
Katie Vincentz, a spokeswoman for the Zeldin campaign, said that the congressman intended to “run up the score” on Primary Day to prove that he could beat Ms. Hochul.
“Lee Zeldin is going to win this race, because New Yorkers need him to win this race, and save our state,” she said.
Mr. Giuliani and his supporters have cast his run as an outsider’s campaign, arguing that his lack of experience in New York politics and policy is actually a positive.
His platform leans heavily on tackling crime, promising a $5 billion fund for police forces around the state while also pledging to cut the state budget. He is not averse to Trumpian nicknames, dubbing Ms. Hochul “Crime Wave Kathy.”
His father has employed some of the same imagery on the campaign trail as Mr. Trump, calling Albany “a swamp” that’s “got to be cleaned up,” echoing the former president’s own rhetoric about Washington in his 2016 campaign.
Curtis Sliwa, last year’s Republican nominee for New York City mayor, has been stumping for the campaign as well. He supported the elder Mr. Giuliani’s first unsuccessful run for mayor back in 1989, “when Andrew was just a little tot,” he said.
Nowadays, he said, he backs Andrew because of his focus on crime, something that Republicans feel is a winning issue this election cycle, particularly in New York, where opposition to bail reform has been a potent issue for conservatives.
“It is the talk of everybody that I deal with,” said Mr. Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, the citizen patrol group. “And it’s not just in the five boroughs; it’s throughout the state. They want to know what the next governor is going to do about the high crime rates.”
Mr. Giuliani declined a request for an interview, but at various events on Long Island and in Albany and outside Rochester, he was friendly and open to brief questions from a New York Times reporter. (The elder Mr. Giuliani did not return requests for comment.)
But he also told Newsmax last week that he felt “legacy outlets” had a liberal bias and claimed that he had chided the Times reporter about it. (For the record, he had not.)
“I told him that, ‘You remind me more of Pravda than you do a free press right now because you are so tilted on one side,’” Mr. Giuliani said. “I don’t mind tough questions, but just make sure they’re fair on both sides of the aisle.”
As for how he might manage a state of 20 million people with no executive experience, his father suggested that he had learned — as many children do — by observation.
“He watched me do it,” the elder Mr. Giuliani said during his remarks on Long Island, talking about how to lower crime rates, adding, “He knows how to do it.”
Still, some New York Republicans say that the younger Mr. Giuliani is overreaching by starting his political career running for the state’s highest office.
“If his name was Andrew Smith, obviously he wouldn’t be running for governor,” said John J. Faso, a former Hudson Valley congressman and the 2006 Republican nominee for governor, who called Mr. Giuliani’s candidacy a “sideshow.”
Mr. Giuliani has impressed some with his natural political skills: He’s comfortable and affable on television and in front of crowds, with a wide smile and a more easygoing demeanor than his sometimes temperamental father.
But his campaign rhetoric is cast in the Trump mold, emphasizing divisive culture-war topics, railing against critical race theory and a “war on cops,” and professing disdain for phrases like “gender dysphoria.”
“I’m not a biologist,” Mr. Giuliani said during a campaign stop in Conesus, N.Y., south of Rochester. “But I do know the difference between a man and a woman.”
Married with a young daughter, Mr. Giuliani is an avid golfer who once sued after being left off the Duke University golf team.
He says that he has had little time to hit the links since the campaign started, telling a prospective voter, Keith Hilpl, that he’d played infrequently in the last year, though he had caught a round with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Hilpl had driven about 80 miles to see Mr. Giuliani at the event in Conesus after hearing him on Steve Bannon’s podcast and visiting his campaign website.
“I always liked his father,” said Mr. Hilpl, a software programmer. “And I wanted to see if he was made of the same stuff.”
Sure enough, he seemed impressed, leaving the event with a campaign hat and a lawn sign.
Back at the event in Hauppauge, a Suffolk County hamlet that sits on the edge of Mr. Zeldin’s district, many in attendance expressed unequivocal adoration for the elder Mr. Giuliani.
“He saved New York,” said Penny Cialone, 60, adding, “And I think Andrew could do exactly what his dad did.”
The younger Mr. Giuliani happily joked with his father, briefly jumping up as he began to speak.
“We have a tradition of me interrupting his speeches,” he said. “I haven’t matured at all.”
At the same time, the candidate also seemed aware of his father’s star power, even as the former mayor handed him the microphone.
Taking it, Andrew Giuliani said he was thankful his father wasn’t running for governor.
“Because I’d be in a whole lot of trouble,” he said, “if he could.”
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.