Republican Rep. Tom Reed was setting himself up for a break out year in Congress. Instead, the co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, the longest serving Republican representing New York in Congress and a potential gubernatorial candidate on Sunday announced he would quit politics next year.
Reed last week was accused of sexual harassment by former lobbyist Nicolette Davis and on Sunday announced he would not seek any political office in 2022, ruling out a re-election bid as well as a run for governor.
Reed's decision could have implications for Republicans, the race for governor and the ongoing controversies now embroiling Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The allegation leveled against Reed and the subsequent decision to not seek re-election is not happening in a political vacuum.
Cuomo is facing allegations leveled against him by multiple women of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, the most recent of which came Friday evening, just hours after Davis's allegation was published in The Washington Post.
Republicans and Democrats alike have called for Cuomo to resign or potentially face an impeachment proceeding. Reed, a vocal critic of the governor's, presented a complication to the GOP's effort to push Cuomo from office.
“I commend Tom Reed for taking real accountability for his actions," said New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy. "I believe he has made the right decision and I hope that this can bring some peace for Ms. Davis, who made very serious allegations that deserved to be heard. I wish Congressman Reed continued strength in his recovery from alcohol dependence and all the best for his family."
The 2022 Picture
Reed was among a handful of Republicans considering a run for governor in 2022 for an office the party has not held since 2006.
The development leaves a clearer path for Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of Suffolk County of Rep. Elise Stefanik of the North Country to secure the nomination. As the Reed story demonstrated, however, it's still very, very early to place bets on what could happen ahead of next year. Both lawmakers Stefanik and Zeldin have been considered potential candidates, and Zeldin has already signaled steps toward a run for governor next year.
Republicans still face an uphill climb statewide next year given the party's enrollment relative Democrats in the state. Langworthy has said his main goal is to recapture the governor's office.
The Fate of NY-23
Reed is the longest serving New York Republican in Congress (elected in a 2010 special election to replace Democratic Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned amid allegations of inappropriately touching an aide) and his pending retirement now calls into question what his district will look like once the map changes in 2022.
The district stretches across the state's Southern Tier region to western New York. It's a rural, largely conservative portion of the state, though Reed has had some surprisingly close calls against Democrats in previous election cycles.
Due to sluggish population growth, New York is expected to lose two House seats in the next election cycle. In 2012, a judge empowered to draw the lines took the red pen to an upstate district vacated by Democrat Maurice Hinchey and a New York City seat filled by Republican Bob Turner after the resignation of Democrat Anthony Weiner.
It's possible Reed's district will be chopped up and distributed to neighboring House seats, making it less likely two members of the same party would be pitted against one another in a primary.