The elder Giuliani, wearing a bright red Giuliani Governor 2022 hat and riding in a minivan adorned with his son’s smiling face, was making his 10th stop in the past week. He has “polished off pierogies” at a Polish Festival in Syracuse and eaten a garbage plate in Rochesteroften in joint visits with his son.
His stops have been a mix of nostalgia, meet-and-greets and sparring with reporters. Many of the events have come with questions about his role advising Trump in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. That’s led to a debate on the campaign trail that’s as much about Rudy Giuliani as it is his son’s bid for governor.
The tour, however, seems to have worked as intended. It has given Andrew Giuliani’s message a steady stream of headlines as Republicans make their final decisions about who to vote for.
In an election that’s likely to feature low turnout and a crowded field, that might be enough. There was already evidence the familial ties could help: The Giuliani name has made Andrew the most liked among the four GOP candidates for governor, a Siena College poll found this month.
That’s despite his campaign spending a fraction of what his foes have on TV ads. He has been severely underfunded against businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino and Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, the favorite among the Republican establishment. Both Zeldin and Wilson will likely wind up outspending Andrew Giuliani by a margin of at least 10-to-1; they each spent around $8 million as of a month agowhile candidate Giuliani had spent less than $500,000.
And he’s also been struggling to secure endorsements from elected officials who can drum up attendance at get-out-the vote rallies. Zeldin has a commanding lead on that front, with Astorino being the only other candidate who has a respectable sliver of institutional support.
His father, the mayor of New York from 1994 through 2001, is obviously the most notable exception to that. He has been a steady presence on his son’s campaign since its launch, but has turned up his visibility at an opportune time.
And Andrew Giuliani, who worked as an adviser in the Trump White House, is quick to defend his father’s legacy as mayor and as Trump’s trusty ally — making them a one-two punch.
“I’m very proud of my name,” Andrew Giuliani said during a debate Tuesday. “People would say well, with a famous last name, it’s easy to run in politics. I would tell you with a name like Andrew it’s very difficult to be the leading candidate for governor in a Republican primary.”
Democrat Andrew Cuomo won New York’s past three gubernatorial elections. After he resigned amid scandal last summer, he was succeeded by Kathy Hochul, the frontrunner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary that’s also being held on Tuesday.
As local media increases the focus the primaries, it has needed to divide its attention between 10 major party candidates running for governor or lieutenant governor — and a slew of state assembly and down-ballot contests.
But the Rudy Giuliani stops have given the campaign earned media in places where ex-New York City mayors who had top roles in the White House aren’t exactly regular visitors, communities like Watertown, Binghamton, Utica and Syracuse .
That has given his son an attack dog who’s guaranteed to garner attention in a crowded field.
“He’s not a real person,” Rudy Giuliani said, ripping Zeldin while in Albany. “He’s a make-believe politician, a clay man.”
While Andrew Giuliani has been regularly visiting every corner of the state since last summer, it’s his first occasion spending significant time campaigning north of the Bronx since his run for Senate against Hillary Clinton in 2000. He ultimately backed out of that race after receiving treatment for prostate cancer.
“The places I’ve been in … many of them have pictures from when I was there in the past,” he said. “There’s nothing new to me, but I didn’t [campaign] with the intensity that happens in the last two weeks of a campaign.”
Rudy Giuliani’s role in national politics has shifted several times — since his 2000 run, since he was known as America’s Mayor in the aftermath of 9/11 and since his failed run for president in 2008.
When he ran 22 years ago for US Senate, he was hammered with questions about his separation from then-wife Donna Hanover, Andrew Giuliani’s mother.
Now, he’s being hammered with questions about the mounting’s over the final months of Trump’s administration. A congressional committee is investigating Giuliani’s role in activities that include pressuring state legislators to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
One topic that has come up repeatedly throughout the upstate tour is an allegation from two Trump confidants that Giuliani was drunk when he urged the then-president to declare victory on election night. He denies that claim, saying he stuck to Diet Pepsi.
But that has led to several press conferences that are far from typical for the gubernatorial campaign trail.
“You’ve made terrible defamatory comments about me. You’re suggesting I’m a criminal, you’re suggesting I’m intoxicated,” he said as reporters in Buffalo shouted questions at him earlier this month. “Is your zealotry, is your hatred for Trump so great … you can’t let me get the last part of a sentence out?”
Coming to his father’s defense, Andrew Giuliani chimed in to chide the reporters’ focus: “What about $5 gas prices? What about the fact that crime is up over here? You guys are shills for the Democratic Party.”
And interactions like that across New York have meant that not all the coverage of his tour has been glowing.
“He’s been prohibited from practicing law over his falsehood of election fraud and portrayed by a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a chief architect of illegal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden,” The Buffalo News began its write-up of the news conference. “None of it is preventing Rudy Giuliani from trying to help his son become governor of New York.”
But it’s far from clear whether coverage like that might dent Andrew’s chances of pulling off an upset next week. Turnout could well be limited to the most loyal Republicans, and it’s a safe bet that a decent chunk of them hold the same views of the Trump administration and its end as the Giulianis do.
“I don’t think it matters a lot,” Rudy Giuliani said in Albany about being the focus on the attacks on the stump. “January 6 is important because something like that shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t be storming Capitols for any reason, but then again, the people who control the Capitol shouldn’t be utilizing it for political purposes, and that’s what they’ve been using since day one.”
The father’s stops have had their share of gaffes, too. On Wednesday, he repeatedly said next week’s primary was in January, and he mixed up the Capitol insurrection with the attacks on 9/11.
To bolster his argument that the Capitol attacks have been unfairly portrayed, he pointed to a conclusion that a police officer who had died from a stroke shortly the day after the attack died of natural causes — but then twisted up the events.
“The first story was that four cops were killed during September 11,” Giuliani said. “No cops were killed during September 11, not a single one.”
Sixty New York City and Port Authority police officers died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.