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GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York governor

Four-term House member says state 'can't survive' more of Cuomo

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., center, speaks at a news conference during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Jan. 24, 2020. Also appearing from left are, Reps. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., center, speaks at a news conference during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Jan. 24, 2020. Also appearing from left are, Reps. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New York GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin announced Tuesday that he would run for governor, challenging embattled Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2022. 

Zeldin has become one of former President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress, particularly during Trump’s first impeachment. He was first elected to represent the 1st District on eastern Long Island in 2014.

“New York has had enough. In Andrew Cuomo’s New York, businesses are shuttering, senseless violence is rising, and New Yorkers are packing up and fleeing,” Zeldin wrote in a fundraising email announcing his campaign. “We can’t survive any more of Andrew Cuomo. I’ll cut straight to it: Andrew Cuomo’s New York isn’t OUR New York.”

Cuomo has drawn challengers from his left as well as he has grappled with multiple controversies over deaths in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic as well as multiple accusations of sexual harassment, and at least one allegation of sexual assault. Members of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation have called on Cuomo to resign

It appears Zeldin will have to give up his House seat to run for governor. In 2018, New York Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was able to run both for attorney general and for reelection to the House because the primaries for Congress and for state offices occurred on separate dates. However, all of New York’s 2022 primaries are likely to be held in June, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

Democrats have targeted the 1st District in recent election cycles, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not include the district on its list of 2022 targets. The 1st District supported Trump over President Joe Biden by almost 5 percentage points, down from the 12-point win it gave Trump in 2016 over Hillary Clinton. Zeldin won reelection in November by nearly 10 points. New York’s congressional lines will also be redrawn for the 2022 election cycle, and the state could lose two House seats thanks to a decline in population. 

Zeldin served in the state Senate before running for Congress in 2014. He is also an Army veteran. In Congress he became a vocal supporter of Trump and a frequent guest on cable news, defending the president. Zeldin announced his campaign for governor on Fox News Thursday morning. 

“This is the first time in my entire life that we have had one-party Democratic rule in New York City, Albany, and D.C., and they’re all doing their part to destroy their levels of government,” Zeldin said. “We can’t get complacent.”

Another Trump ally from New York, GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, has also reportedly been weighing a run for governor.

During Trump’s four years in office, Zeldin supported the president’s position on legislation 89 percent of the time, below the 92 percent average for all Republicans, according to CQ Vote Watch. But those figures show a marked shift as time went on: In 2017, he backed Trump’s position on votes 83 percent of the time, almost 12 points below the party average. By 2020, he backed Trump 92 percent of the time, 5 points higher than the party average for that year.

Among the votes where he broke with his colleagues and the president were his opposition to the 2017 tax overhaul and a 2018 bill to appropriating $16.6 billion for a wall along the Mexico border. In January, he voted with a majority of his GOP colleagues to overturn the electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Herb Jackson contributed to this report.

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