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Editorial: Three of four GOP candidates could not state the truth

At Monday night’s debate among four Republican candidates for New York governor, the competitors were asked who won the 2020 election. 

It was a straightforward question, one that’s been answered countless times, immediately after that election and in the many months since. It is at the heart of the testimony before the January 6 Committee in Washington —and it’s a settled question by the courts. To deny it, or to pretend you’re just not sure who won, only feeds the conspiracy theories ripping through American society and reinforces the widespread belief that our elections — our democratic system — can’t be trusted. For Trump loyalists all over the country — including three who are now running for governor of New York — the question was too much. None of those three — Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani — could bring themselves to say, “Joe Biden won. We aren’t happy about it, but, yes, he won. Let’s move on.”

Only Harry Wilson, a centrist Republican businessman, said Biden’s victory was clear.

Mr. Giuliani fell all over himself trying to describe his loyalty to the “former guy” and how fake the election was and how Trump was cheated out of a second term. For his part, Mr. Zeldin basically said the issue was still up in the air. We will never know for sure, he said. 

Yes, Mr. Zeldin, we do know for sure. 

It’s puzzling that Mr. Zeldin, who voted not to accept the results of the electoral college after the violent insurrection by Trump’s followers, is still holding the line while running for governor. It’s equally puzzling that he can’t seem to chart his own political path and run on his own independent beliefs, separate from the noise of MAGA conspiracy. He appears unfazed by the violence of Jan. 6, the destruction of property at the Capitol or the threats to drag Vice President Pence to the gallows — all over the issue of who won the 2020 presidential election.

We wonder if Mr. Zeldin is even following the testimony of the Jan. 6 Committee and, if so, if he’s moved by any it. 

If not, we’d like to fill him in on some of Tuesday’s most emotional testimony and what it reveals about America, which many will say with heavy hearts is now a country in steep decline precisely because of conspiracy theories and the constant drumbeat among Trump supporters that his victory was stolen. 

Three conservative Republican state officials testified Tuesday that they had pushed back against relentless demands from Trump and Rudy Giuliani to throw out the results in Arizona and Georgia and substitute a fake group of electors who would pick Trump. That is called an attempted coup.

All three were mercilessly harassed and threatened. Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers delivered emotional testimony — at several points holding back tears — as he described Trump supporters protesting outside his house and hurling insults (“You are a pedophile” among them) — all while his daughter lay gravely ill inside. She died Jan. 28, 2021.

No matter how many times Mr. Bowers refused to cheat and violate his oath of office, Trump and Giuliani persisted.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spoke of virulent harassment shouted at his wife. He said his daughter-in-law’s home was broken into. 

“My son has passed, and she’s widowed and has two kids, so we’re very concerned about her safety also,” Mr. Raffensperger said, according to multiple media reports.

Meanwhile, here in New York on Monday night, three Republican candidates for governor of our state just couldn’t bring themselves to push back against brainless conspiracy theories that fuel violence and just state the truth. It’s hard to imagine where all this goes from here.