Congressman Lee Zeldin in an interview with Newsday Tuesday confirmed his interest in running for New York governor to challenge Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Mr. Zeldin, who’s been rumored as a potential Republican candidate in recent days as Mr. Cuomo finds himself immersed in controversy, said is he “actively exploring a run for governor of New York against Andrew Cuomo in 2022,” according to Newsday and a follow-up Tweet.
Mr. Zeldin said in a Tweet from his personal account that he “can’t sit back as Cuomo attacks our freedoms, our wallets & our safety.”
Fox News first reported on Feb. 19 that “influential Republicans” were urging Mr. Zeldin to run for governor.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Zeldin added: “After [Mr. Cuomo’s] nursing home cover-up, bullying, abuse and harassment have come more to light in recent days and weeks, it’s clearer now more than ever that he’s been in the Governor’s office too long and it’s time for Cuomo to go.”
A spokeswoman for the congressman told The Suffolk Times last week that he has gotten “a lot of passionate outreach recently from New Yorkers who are basically saying, ‘If you don’t run and you don’t win, I’m leaving.’ ” She added that Mr. Zeldin would do everything he can to make sure Mr. Cuomo doesn’t get a fourth term.
Mr. Zeldin, who was elected to a fourth term in November to represent the 1st Congressional District, would have to give up his seat in Congress to run for governor in 2022. The House of Representatives terms are two years, so he could not run for two seats concurrently.
In the interview with Newsday, Mr. Zeldin said he would only run if he believes he could win.
Mr. Cuomo, who received wide praise at the pandemic’s onset for his daily briefings, now finds himself on the defensive on two fronts: his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic and more recent accusations of sexual harassment from former aides. The governor has not held a media briefing since the middle of last week.
Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who represents the Fourth Congressional District in Nassau County, called for the governor’s resignation Monday after a story in The New York Times where Mr. Cuomo was accused of an unwanted advance at a wedding in 2019, the most recent accusation.
Mr. Zeldin has faced his own backlash locally following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol when the congressman voted to object to the certification of President Joe Biden’s win.
The last Republican governor of New York was George Pataki, whose last term ended in 2006. Mr. Cuomo won the 2018 election with about 62% of the statewide vote.