GOP lawmaker 'actively exploring' run for New York governor

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinSunday shows preview: Biden defends troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacting unvaccinated pockets Misled condemnation of the Lebanese Armed Forces will help Hezbollah New York GOP backs Zeldin for governor MORE (R-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he is “actively exploring” a run for New York governor as Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoUniversity of Michigan says all students, faculty, staff must be vaccinated by fall term Cuomo signs legislation making baseball the official sport of New York CNN's Cuomo tells restaurant owner: 'You sound like an idiot' for denying service to vaccinated customers MORE (D) faces mounting calls for his resignation

In a tweet, Zeldin cited the ongoing controversy over Cuomo’s role in withholding data on coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes, as well as mounting allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women, as the impetus for a potential campaign.

“With his nursing home cover-up & abuse coming more to light, it's clear #CuomosGottaGo,” Zeldin tweeted. “As a NYer, I can't sit back as Cuomo attacks our freedoms, our wallets & our safety. After many msgs of encouragement & discussing w/ my fam, I’m actively exploring a 2022 run for Gov of NY.”

Zeldin, who has represented New York’s’ Long Island-based 1st Congressional District since 2015, revealed his plans earlier on Tuesday in an interview with Newsday. 

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“I feel like we have a need to save our state, that we have to work together to protect our freedoms, our wallets and our safety – and it doesn't matter whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an independent,” Zeldin told the newspaper.

New York hasn’t elected a Republican to the governor’s mansion in nearly two decades, and Democrats have only tightened their grip over the state government in recent years. 

But Zeldin’s announcement underscores the political peril Cuomo is facing. The governor landed in hot water last month after New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) issued a report accusing Cuomo’s administration of undercounting coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes by declining to add to the total residents who had died in hospitals.

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It was later revealed that Cuomo’s top aide had privately told state lawmakers that the administration had underreported nursing home deaths out of fear that it could be used as fodder for a potential Justice Department investigation. 

Cuomo’s troubles have only escalated. State lawmakers have called for the governor to be stripped of his emergency powers, while a growing number of journalists and legislators have accused him of using abusive tactics against them. 

In addition, former female employees of Cuomo have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Those allegations prompted James to open an investigation into the governor’s behavior. 

Cuomo acknowledged in a statement this week that some of his past comments and actions “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. 

"I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” he said. “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

The scandals over Cuomo’s personal and professional behavior make him a likely target for primary challengers in 2022, when he’s expected to run for a fourth term. But his political future has become increasingly blurry. A growing number of lawmakers have called on him to step down.