Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin to Run for Governor of New York

Representative Lee Zeldin in March at a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Credit…Pool photo by Ting Shen)

Representative Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican and avid supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, declared on Thursday that he was entering the 2022 race for governor of New York, hoping to emerge as his party’s challenger to the embattled Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“The bottom line is this: To save New York, Andrew Cuomo’s gotta go,” Mr. Zeldin, a staunch conservative who represents parts of Long Island, said in a news release.

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, is in the midst of the greatest crisis of his political life, facing investigations and accusations of sexual harassment. Many of the state’s Democratic leaders have asked him to resign, and whether he will ultimately run for re-election next year is an open question.

But any Republican, especially one closely tied to Mr. Trump, would face an extraordinarily uphill battle running statewide in New York. And there is no doubt about how deeply Mr. Zeldin has embraced Mr. Trump and his politics, including by voting to overturn the results of the November election, a stance that would instantly disqualify him in the eyes of many voters should he make it to a general election.

Republicans have not won a statewide election in New York since 2002, and Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. Many of the state’s Democrats have moved further to the left since then, and the suburbs — which Mr. Zeldin’s supporters say would be a vital part of his base — are no longer Republican strongholds, either.

Mr. Trump won Mr. Zeldin’s district, the eastern portion of Long Island that extends through the Hamptons, by 12 percentage points in 2016. In 2020, that margin shrank to around four percentage points, and redistricting is slated for this year, creating a measure of uncertainty and risk for the state’s Republican members of Congress in particular.

But Mr. Zeldin’s candidacy also speaks to Mr. Cuomo’s perceived vulnerability: Republican candidates for governor in New York tend to be less high-ranking than Mr. Zeldin, a sitting member of Congress, given how difficult it is for Republicans to run statewide.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Katie Glueck