U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin announced on Thursday, April 8, that he would challenge embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2022.
Mr. Zeldin, 41, a Republican from Shirley who is in his fourth term representing eastern Long Island’s 1st District in Congress, would be the highest profile candidate to run against Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, who is in his third term and has been beset with scandal.
“The bottom line is this; to save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” Mr. Zeldin said in a press release accompanying his announcement.
“Today, I am proud to announce that I am running for governor of New York in 2022,” he said. “I will bring the kind of relentless, fighting spirit toward 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 lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, who formerly served as a state senator, Mr. Zeldin defeated long-time incumbent Tim Bishop for Congress in 2014. He hitched his star to the ascendent Donald Trump after the populist Republican was elected president in 2016, and frequently appeared on Fox News to defend the president’s policies.
There have been rumors for over a month that Mr. Zeldin would challenge Mr. Cuomo for the governorship after Republican leaders across the state encouraged him to do so.
Mr. Cuomo, who had enjoyed widespread popularity for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, began to lose his grip when it was revealed that the state had vastly underestimated the number of elderly people who had died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes after the state’s policy of transferring patients to those facilities was called into question.
Mr. Cuomo has also come under fire for helping obtain COVID-19 tests for friends and family at a time when those tests were hard to come by as well as negotiating a $4 million book deal at the same time he was directing aides to fudge the nursing home death toll figures.
The governor has also been fending off a nearly weekly succession of sexual harassment charges brought by women who served in his administration.
The various charges against the governor have led to growing calls for his resignation or impeachment, including from some Democratic elected officials.
In his announcement, Mr. Zeldin took aim at the state’s Democratic majority, which controls the Assembly and Senate as well as the governor’s office.
“With one-party Democrat rule in New York City and Albany, the light that once shone as a beacon of what America can be has gone dark. The New York that was once a magnet for the world’s best and brightest is now forcing its own to leave under the crushing weight of skyrocketing taxes, lost jobs, suffocating regulations, and rising crime resulting from dangerously liberal policies,” he said in the release. “At the helm of New York’s downfall is Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose disgraceful and deadly nursing home order and cover-up is part of a long line of scandals, lies, and harassment. Cuomo has abused the power and trust granted to him and it is time for him to immediately exit stage left.”
“I am ready to go all in on this mission and bring New York back from the brink and return it to glory,” he concluded. “For many, this feels like a last stand to save our state. Losing is not an option.”
Mr. Zeldin has not been without his own controversy. On January 6, the same day that a mob of right-wing extremists overran the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of the election of President Joseph Biden, Mr. Zeldin joined 146 other Republicans in voting to oppose that certification.
After The Express News Group ran an article that challenged the veracity of most of the statements Mr. Zeldin made on the floor of the House in the debate leading up to that vote, he has not responded to requests for comment from the paper’s staff.