Who wants to run for governor as a Republican in 2022?

Rep. Elise Stefanik on Jan. 17, 2021.
Rep. Elise Stefanik on Jan. 17, 2021.
Adrian Kraus/AP/Shutterstock
Rep. Elise Stefanik on Jan. 17, 2021.

Who wants to run for governor as a Republican in 2022?

A prospective primary field is forming early.
February 22, 2021

The 2021 New York City mayor’s race is just getting started, but the 2022 gubernatorial race is already beginning to take shape. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to run for a fourth term. While the left wing of his party holds out hope that someone will challenge him in the primaries, he remains the odds-on favorite to win renomination and reelection, with recent polling showing him with a solid 56% favorability rating among registered voters. 

But with the controversy over the Cuomo administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, a growing list of Republicans sense a potential opportunity to restore their party to local political relevance with a gubernatorial campaign. 

Democrats grew their registration advantage by about 300,000 voters in between the 2020 and 2018 election cycles and Cuomo has continued to show over the previous year how easily he can raise a huge campaign war chest. Despite being an affable moderate, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro lost to Cuomo by 23 points in 2018. No Republican has won statewide office since former Gov. George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

Someone from the party has to run for governor of New York, though, and Pataki won his first term against Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was seeking a fourth term in 1994. Here is a round-up of the Republicans who may be hoping that history repeats itself. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik

The North Country legislator became the then-youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2014 and quickly began building a national profile as a political up-and-comer who might help the GOP appeal more to women. Subsequently, her embrace of former President Donald Trump and his recent efforts to overturn the 2020 election though show just how much a few years in Washington, D.C. have changed the Harvard graduate. Her national connections, fundraising abilities and name recognition have nonetheless made her a top gubernatorial recruit for Republicans, but she would have to give up her day job if she wanted to compete against Cuomo in Nov. 2022.

Rep. Lee Zeldin

Another star from MAGA world who is being mentioned as a possible contender is the four-term Republican Congress member from Long Island. He would bring close ties to the Trump family, as well as his experience as a military veteran. Coming from the crucial downstate swing suburbs might also be an asset in the general election. 

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro

Molinaro may still have ambitions for higher office. He would face an uphill battle in a GOP primary against right-wing stars like Stefanik and Zeldin, but Molinaro could argue that his relative political moderation and experience as a local government executive in the swing region of the Hudson Valley make him a better candidate in the November election. Molinaro has said that he has yet to make a final decision on making another run for governor. 

Rep. Tom Reed

The Southern Tier lawmaker promised constituents in 2010 that he would only serve six two-year terms in Congress. That time will be up in 2022. “I will honor those commitments, and I will leave it to the public to make the decision as to where my future goes,” he recently told The Buffalo News. His current position as co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus gives him some basis to argue that he could be competitive in a general election. And unlike Stefanik and Zeldin, Reed does not have to explain a vote to overturn the Electoral College results hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. 

Janice Dean

Few people have done more to raise public awareness about COVID-19 in nursing homes than a Fox News meteorologist who lost two in-laws to the pandemic. Thus far, she has resisted calls by some Republicans to throw her hat in the ring. Her connection to the network most hated by Democrats would complicate any run for statewide office, but at least critics of the Canadian-born T.V. personality would not have to worry about her leveraging a campaign for a future White House run.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.