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Lee Zeldin Makes His Run For N.Y. Governor Official

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)
Jacquelyn Martin

Republican U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin of eastern Long Island has announced he will seek the GOP nomination to run for governor of New York against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo in 2022.

Investigations are underway about Cuomo’s policies on nursing homes during the pandemic, sexual harassment allegations and coronavirus testing privileges for the Cuomo family, among others issues.

The Zeldin campaign released an official announcement video blasting Cuomo for even considering re-election.

“The bottom line is this: To save New York, Cuomo’s gotta go,” the campaign video said. “It’s time for new leadership. It’s time for Lee Zeldin.”

"We can raise the white flag and surrender to mediocrity, corruption, cover ups, more job losses and even higher taxes,” Zeldin said in the campaign video. “We might as well just turn the lights off. Or we can roll up our sleeves and get to work to save our state.”

Zeldin grabbed national headlines as an ally of former President Donald Trump. He was on his legal defense team during his impeachment hearings.

The 41-year-old Republican touts himself as a suburban family man from Shirley, a veteran of the Iraq War and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and a steward of the environment — even though he sided with GOP rollbacks of Obama-era environmental protections.

Zeldin’s run for governor comes a day after Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, said he plans to run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

“Lee Zeldin would make an excellent governor,” New York State Republican Party chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement. “The New York Republican Party’s number one goal is to elect a Republican Governor in 2022.”

In 2002, three-term Republican Governor George Pataki was the last time a member of the GOP was elected head of state.

Langworthy said the state GOP county chairs will meet on April 19 to hear from Zeldin and other potential nominees for governor. Among them:

  • Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who lost to Cuomo in 2018
  • New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, another Trump ally

"Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election," said Alex DeGrasse, senior advisor to Stefanik. "She appreciates the widespread encouragement and is not ruling anything out — nor will she make her decision based on others’ timetables."
A handful of Democrats are considering a run to challenge Cuomo for the Democratic nomination, including three allies of Cuomo:

  • Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone
  • New York Congressman Tom Suozzi
  • New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

Zeldin's campaign has not responded to requests for comment by WSHU.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.