ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – Southern Tier Republicans have spoken, Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin is their pick for the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

“I think he’s the most qualified he’s the most focused and let’s face it you gotta have that connection to the people,” said Tom Santulli, Local Republican Commentator.

It’s that connection that he’s made with Southern Tier residents, that earned their votes.

“Congressman Zeldin has spent the most time in the Elmira-Corning area out of the four candidates. There’s no doubt about that,” said Joe Sempolinski, Steuben County Republican Committee Chairman.

“They’re [Zeldin and his Lieutenant Governor] here on a regular basis letting them [Southern Tier Residents] know that the voices of the Southern Tier and the Fingerlakes will be heard and represented not just the voices of New York City,” said Phil Palmesano, Assemblyman 132nd District (R, C, I-Corning).

Voters in the Southern Tier can sometimes feel forgotten.

“This is an area of the state that doesn’t get as much attention as New York City and New York suburbs Buffalo, Rochester, Albany…Sometimes we do get left behind a little bit and knowing that somebody is willing to actually come to us and ask us for our vote… That really means a lot to people in rural areas,” said Sempolinski.

The polls echo the views of Southern Tier Republicans; Lee Zeldin leading with 34 % of the vote, Rob Astorino, Harry Wilson, and Andrew Giuliani, staying in the high teens, according to a new Nexstar Emerson College Poll.

The last time a Republican was governor in New York was in 2006, but Southern Tier Republicans say the state is primed for a change in leadership.

“You have an inflation rate of 8.6%, gas prices are on the rise, grocery prices, are on the rise…I mean everywhere across the state, crime is on the rise,” said Palmesano.

“The Democrats have been in power in the state for a long time and quite frankly this state’s a mess… and it’s time for a change,” said Santulli.

Beating Democratic Incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul in the general election will be a tough task, but Republicans argue this will be a closer race than usual, possibly swaying some voters.

“It’s time to try something a little different…I think certainly a lot of Republicans feel that way, certainly, a lot of Independent voters feel that way, but I would argue, that a lot of common sense Democrat voters feel that way,” said Sempolinski.

Congressman Zeldin will be making his way back to the Southern Tier this week itself.

The primary is on June 28, and early voting begins this Saturday.