CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) — One of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, Representative Lee Zeldin announced on Thursday that he will run for governor of New York in 2022.
“The bottom line is this: To save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” a video announcement for the 41-year old, four-term congressmen intones, referring to the multiple scandals tarnishing the image of the incumbent Democrat.
Cuomo is eligible to seek a fourth term in 2022 since New York does not have gubernatorial term limits, but mounting scandals have led to demands for his resignation across the political spectrum, his own party included.
In announcing Zeldin's candidacy on Thursday, the campaign portrays New York as awash in urban violence “due to Cuomo’s liberal policies,” and blames high taxes for driving out-of-state flight.
“I am ready to go all in on this mission and bring New York back from the brink and return it to glory,” the congressman proclaims in his video message.
Separately tweeting about his plans, Zeldin vowed to "bring the kind of relentless, fighting spirit towards helping to save our state that Cuomo reserves for multi-million dollar self-congratulatory book deals, cover-ups, abuse & self-dealing."
Zeldin’s ardent support of Trump has been reciprocated by MAGA allies including Trump senior adviser Jason Miller, who recently praised Zeldin in a Fox News interview.
"I can think of no other candidate who doesn’t have the last name of Trump that MAGA-supporters are more excited about potentially running for governor in 2022 than Lee Zeldin," Miller said.
Zeldin’s status as Jewish, Republican and an Army veteran lends him “great crossover appeal,” Miller said, anticipating the Republican challenger can "run up numbers from his base in Long Island," and also stack votes in rural and working-class upstate New York.
Trump had toured Long Island during his first year in office to rail against illegal immigration and violent crime, and in particular the street gang known as MS-13, which has ties to El Salvador and has terrorized communities on Long Island and in other parts of the country.
Early last year, when New York emerged as the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zeldin reportedly secured personal protective equipment for his district from the White House by speaking directly to Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of and senior adviser to Trump, about eastern Long Island’s needs as one of the country's Covid-19 hot spots.
“And at the request of Congressman Lee Zeldin, out in Long Island, we will also be delivering another 200,000 N95 masks to Suffolk County, where they need it very badly,” Trump said on April 6, 2020. “So, we’re getting that out on an emergency basis.”
Earlier this year, Zeldin voted against on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.
“I'll bring the kind of relentless, fighting spirit towards helping to save our state that Cuomo reserves for multi-million dollar self-congratulatory book deals, cover-ups, abuse & self-dealing,” Zeldin tweeted Thursday.
Joined by a handful of Republican lawmakers, including Representatives Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mo Brooks of Alabama, Zeldin was one of the more than 100 lawmakers who continued to demand a halt to the tabulation of electors on Jan. 6, just hours after throngs of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an armed insurrection.
Zeldin currently represents the predominantly suburban Suffolk County on eastern Long Island. In 2020, his 1st Congressional District voted for Trump 51% to 47%, slightly down from 54% to 42% in 2016.
The state has not elected a Republican to statewide office since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002.
Pataki won his first term in 1994, defeating Andrew Cuomo’s father, three-term incumbent Governor Mario Cuomo, by winning handily in the suburbs.
The younger Cuomo, 63, saw sky-high polling numbers early in the pandemic last year, but his favorability has waned in recent months amid a nursing home scandal and reports of sexual harassment. Though a growing number of state and federal lawmakers have cited lost confidence in his leadership, Cuomo has said it would be undemocratic to bow down to resignation pressure.
Against those increasing calls for the Cuomo’s resignation, a Siena College Research Institute poll last month found that 50% of New York voters believed he should wait out a harassment probe in office, while just 35% called for him to step down.
Responding to those statistics, Cuomo appeared unfazed and chuckled on a conference call that he always faces 35% calling for his resignation even during the “normal political spectrum.”
Cuomo has steadfastly denied the allegations against him — all by women, several of them former aides — while apologizing for any behavior that may have made women feel “uncomfortable or awkward.”
Saying his immediate focus is fixed on Covid-19 vaccinations and the state’s annual budget, Cuomo has urged New Yorkers to hold off forming an opinion about the allegations until the findings of an investigation launched by attorney general become public.
Cuomo today announced that more than 11 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the state, accounting for over a third of New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose, and 22% completed vaccinated.
He also signed off last week on the state’s legalization of marijuana — an issue he opposed in 2017 when he referred to pot as a gateway drug and said that, “as of this date, I am unconvinced” on recreational marijuana.
The state projects that legalization will result in the collection up to $350 million in annual cannabis taxes.
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