Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin will seek the GOP nomination for governor in 2022, he announced Thursday morning, becoming the first to enter a rapidly shifting field of potential candidates.
“I am ready to go all in on this mission and bring New York back from the brink and return it to glory," Zeldin said in a statement released by his campaign. “For many, this feels like a last stand to save our state. Losing is not an option.”
Zeldin is announcing his candidacy amid a series of escalating controversies for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat now in his third term and first elected in 2011. There have been bipartisan calls for the governor's resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment as well as an under count of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing and has said he will not step down. Cuomo has also indicated he will continue to seek a fourth term next year.
“The bottom line is this; to save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go," Zeldin said. "Today, I am proud to announce that I am running for Governor of New York in 2022. I will bring the kind of relentless, fighting spirit towards helping to save our state that Andrew Cuomo only reserves for multi-million dollar self-congratulatory book deals, cover-ups, abuse and self-dealing."
A Republican will still likely face an uphill climb in 2022 in New York, a heavily Democratic state where the GOP is shut out of power across the board in Albany. A Republican has not won statewide since 2002, when George Pataki won a third term.
Zeldin is a Long Island House member first elected to Congress in 2014. Prior to that, he served in the state Senate.
Still, multiple Republicans have expressed an interest in running for governor in 2022, including Rep. Elise Stefanik. Rep. Tom Reed bowed out of running and is not seeking re-election after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has also expressed an interest in running.
State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in a statement later on Thursday knocked Zeldin's support for former President Donald Trump.
"New Yorkers will never elect a Republican like Lee Zeldin who has continued to tie himself tightly to Donald Trump, QAnon conspiracy theories, and who has continued to support the 'Big Lie' that the Presidential Election was stolen from Donald Trump and that Joe Biden is not legitimately in office," Jacobs said. "New Yorkers will never support the candidacy of someone who endorsed treason when he voted against certifying the results of the Electoral College on January the 6th – right after a Trump incited mob of insurrectionist rioters, intent on stopping that very certification, took over the very Capitol he was elected to serve in. His vote was an endorsement of the actions of that mob – motivated by a lie that he continues to spread. Not only will he never serve as our Governor, he doesn’t even deserve to serve in Congress."