Rep. Lee Zeldin easily won the state Republican Committee’s gubernatorial nod Tuesday at the party convention on Long Island, taking home more than 85% of the vote – a margin that makes it tougher for his GOP rivals to make the June 28 ballot.

His victory capped the Republicans’ two-day nominating convention at the Garden City Hotel, where party leaders backed a slate of candidates who repeatedly made clear they intend to make crime one of the defining issues of the 2022 campaigns.

"We are going to win this race because we have to win this race,” Zeldin, who represents parts of Long Island, said during one of his two speeches at the convention. “This is a rescue mission to save our state that will be successful."

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But just as Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is likely to face a primary challenge on June 28, so too is Zeldin. At least three of Zeldin’s Republican opponents – Andrew Giuliani, Harry Wilson and Rob Astorino – intend to collect enough petition signatures to get onto the ballot.

Here are five takeaways from 2022 New York State Republican Convention:

1. Zeldin wins big, but a primary awaits

It was Zeldin celebrating on stage at the end of the convention. But the race isn’t over yet.

Four Republican candidates got at least some votes from GOP Committee members for the party’s gubernatorial designation. But Zeldin was the only one to cross 25% of the weighted vote, meaning he’s the only one to get a guaranteed spot on the June 28 primary ballot without having to petition.

Wilson, Giuliani and Astorino and any other potential candidates will now have to collect 15,000 signatures from active enrolled Republicans spread throughout the state in order to secure a spot.

Giuliani, a former aide to President Donald Trump, worked the lobby outside the conventional hall with his father, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani, a longtime New York Republican Party stalwart, said he was disappointed party leaders didn’t orchestrate the vote to allow multiple candidates to get the automatic spot on the ballot, something the party has done in the past to allow for a race among serious candidates.

“I'd like to see a fair and square primary, let the serious candidates battle it out,” he said. “We used to give serious candidates the 25% after the first guy was nominated, so we could have a fair and square primary.”

As the convention wrapped, Astorino – the former Westchester County executive who also ran for governor in 2014 – said his petition operation has already launched and he expects to qualify for the primary ballot. Wilson, a business consultant who launched his campaign last week, is also planning to collect signatures.

Along with Zeldin, the Republican Committee gave its nod to candidate Joe Pinion for U.S. Senate, Michael Henry for state attorney general, Alison Esposito for lieutenant governor, and state comptroller Paul Rodriguez.

The slate of candidates is more diverse than Republicans have put together in years past. Pinion made history as the the first Black person in history to become a major party’s designee for a U.S. Senate seat in New York, while Rodriguez is Puerto Rican.

“This is the most diverse slate we’ve ever put together,” Nick Langworthy, the state GOP chair, told reporters.

2. Crime, crime and more crime

Over two days of speeches and rallying cries, one issue came up more than any other: crime.

A Siena College poll last month showed 91% of New York voters think crime is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue across the state. And the entire Republican slate made clear they intend to try to capitalize on it.

That includes Esposito, who is Zeldin’s preferred running mate and was the only person to seek the party leaders’ nod for the role.

Esposito is a 24-year veteran of the New York Police Department, including a stint as commanding officer of the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn before she launched her run for office.

During her speech Tuesday, Esposito spoke about the GOP’s desire to reshape the state’s bail laws, which Democrats reformed in recent years to restrict the ability to require cash as a requirement for release before trial for most misdemeanor and non-violent felonies.

She also voiced support for giving judges more discretion to keep people behind bars pending trial, particularly if they consider the defendant a potential danger or a flight risk.

“Here’s a unique idea: How about we hold the criminals to task?” Esposito, who’s currently running unopposed, said to applause. “How about we back the blue?”

In general, Wilson conveyed a more moderate tone than his opponents for the gubernatorial nod. But even he made clear he intends to make an issue of crime.

“We will end cashless bail, we will restore judicial discretion, we will fire DAs who don’t do their job,” he said in his speech.

3. Republicans hoping for a “red wave”

On Monday morning, Langworthy, the GOP chair, exhorted the convention’s attendees to build on the so-called “Red Wave” that helped the party pick up seats in places like Nassau County last November. He also lauded Nassau County’s flipping of the district attorney’s office from Democrat to Republican.

Langworthy blasted Hochul as “Andrew Cuomo 2.0” and blamed her administration for driving people out of the state because of high taxes and concerns over crime.

“Get out from behind the keyboard and go grab a clipboard,” said Langworthy urging the attendees to go out “everyday” between now and November to register new voters for their party.

Former Gov. George Pataki, who left office in 2007 and is the last Republican to hold statewide office, said the party’s emphasis on lowering taxes, increasing school choice, and reversing the state’s bail reform laws would help attract new voters. He also criticized the Democrats, calling President Joe Biden “weak” while criticizing party members for their focus on issues like gender identity.

“Right now, the Democrats are having a real debate: am I a ‘he,’ a ‘she,’ an ‘it,’ a ‘them’ or a ‘this.' They don't know who they are because they are trapped in this woke identity crap,” said Pataki, who said Republicans know who they are.

4. War in Ukraine gets plenty of attention

As the war in Ukraine rages on, Republicans wasted no time trying to blame Democrats for the international conflict that has captured the world’s attention.

“I don't care what anybody says and how un-PC this is: If anyone thinks that Russia would have invaded the Ukraine if this last presidential election had gone differently, you got another thing coming,” Langworthy said Monday.

Aside from crime, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was one of the most discussed topics from the podium, with some – like Langworthy – using it as a political cudgel and others simply voicing support for the Ukrainian people.

“I would like to start off by saying Slava Ukraini – glory to Ukraine,” Astorino said at the beginning of his remarks.

5. Petitioning begins

The petitioning period for the June 28 primary officially began on Monday and will last until April 7. After that, both parties will have a better idea of who will appear on the ballot.

On the Democratic side, Hochul faces a likely challenge from New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi.

But the Republican candidates made clear they anticipate it’s Hochul – the clear front-runner – that one of them will be facing in November.

“For us to be successful in this effort to restore balance in Albany, we have to fire Kathy Hochul and [Lt. Gov.] Brian Benjamin,” Zeldin said.

Democrats had already made clear they’re belief that Zeldin would emerge as the GOP’s favorite. In a news release issued just as Zeldin was winning the GOP leaders’ nod, the state Democratic Committee branded him as “Big Lie Lee” – a reference to him voting against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

“By nominating Big Lie Lee for governor, the New York GOP is sending a blaring signal to New Yorkers that their plans for 2022 are pandering to the far-right, promoting an out-of-touch agenda, and dividing our state,” the Democrats’ press release read.