U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin announced on Thursday, April 8, that he would seek the Republican nomination to 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.
“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,” Mr. Zeldin said in a press release accompanying his announcement.
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. There have been rumors for more than 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 that goodwill when it was revealed that the state had vastly underreported the number of people in nursing homes who had died from COVID-19 after the state’s policy of transferring patients to those facilities was called into question. The governor has also been fending off a 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.”
Mr. Zeldin has not been without his own controversy. On January 6, the same day that a mob of pro-Donald Trump 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.