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

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin
U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin
Gage Skidmore
U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin

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

A prospective primary field is forming early.
May 11, 2021

Republicans are optimistic about their chances of electing a governor next year as three-term incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues fighting for his political life. A few of candidates have already officially announced they are running in what could become a crowded primary field for the GOP nomination. No matter who ends up at the top of the ticket, their chances of beating the Democratic candidate appear remote.

Democrats grew their registration advantage by about 300,000 voters between the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. Cuomo has already amassed a formidable war chest in anticipation of winning the fourth term in office that eluded his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. And even if the present governor’s political troubles lead him to give up on running next year, other well-known Democrats like Attorney General Letitia James could step up. Then there are the complications created by former President Donald Trump.

Leading GOP gubernatorial contender Rep. Lee Zeldin has been a prominent figure in rightwing media, which gives him an edge over relatively moderate opponents in a primary election where diehard Trumpists might dominate the electorate. A Trump endorsement might determine who wins and loses, though that would only make it easier for Democrats to label the GOP nominee as too extreme to lead the state.

Despite the challenges, Republicans remain hopeful that they can win their first statewide election since former Gov. George Pataki won a third term in office in 2002. He too overcame doubts when he first ran for governor against Mario Cuomo in 1994. To upset the Dems this time around, state party chair Nick Langworthy is hoping the party can settle on a candidate more than a year ahead of the 2022 election. 

Here is a round-up of the Republicans who may be hoping that history repeats itself next year, updated on May 11.

Running

Rep. Lee Zeldin

The four-term Long Island member of Congress is the person to beat for the nomination now that he has built up a war chest and secured the support of enough county leaders to become the party’s preferred candidate for governor. He brings to the campaign trail close ties to the Trump family and experience as a military veteran. Coming from the crucial downstate swing suburbs doesn’t hurt either, but he better get his story straight on who exactly won the 2020 presidential election, considering his ongoing equivocation about whether the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli

Name recognition will not come easily for a longtime cop who has spent the past nine years keeping the peace in the fourth-least populated county in the state. Some GOP voters might like his opposition to public health restrictions, bail reform and drivers licenses for undocumented people, but a lot needs to go right for Carpinelli to have any chance of winning the nomination. His chances are much better at becoming the most famous Lewis County resident since Franklin “Father of American forestry” Hough.

Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino

The fourth time might be the charm for Astorino, who has made a 2022 gubernatorial run official after losing his last three bids for elected office. His longtime ties to the likes of mega-donor Robert Mercer ought to help his chances. The 2014 GOP gubernatorial nominee even has a few moderate bonafides that could make him competitive in a rematch against Cuomo. But Astorino better show some life on the campaign trail quickly or he might end up at another political dead end.

Possible contenders

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro

Marc 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 told City & State on May 11 that he will make a final decision on another run for governor “soon.”

Andrew Giuliani

The son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said he will make a decision by May 15 about whether to run for governor. He would bring his experience as an official in the Trump administration, which could make him a front-runner for the coveted Trump endorsement. As a child, he famously upstaged his father’s inauguration speech in 1994, which was then parodied by “Saturday Night Live.” 

Rep. John Katko

His vote for impeachment and reputation for political moderation makes the Central New York Congress member an odd fit in a party still defined by the former president. His entrance into the race might please the party elders who are reportedly recruiting him for a run, but it would also mean giving up a congressional seat that could turn blue in 2022. His absence from a recent candidate forum in Albany, however, suggests he is leaning against a run. 

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra

A lot of New York voters might like how Giambra campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016 alongside other moderate Republicans wary of electing Trump. But that is not going to go over well with Republican primary voters next year if Giambra ends up officially declaring his candidacy. His ill-fated campaign for the 2018 nomination seemingly confirmed that. 

Not running

Rep. Elise Stefanik

The North Country legislator has officially ruled out a run for the Second Floor. That only makes sense considering how busy she is maneuvering for a leadership post in the Trumpian House minority. In another world, her serious MAGA cred, fundraising abilities and name recognition could have potentially shoved Zeldin aside – but she would have to give up her congressional seat in the process. At least she didn’t pose as a daughter of the Adirondacks for nothing!

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 at the end of 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 toldThe Buffalo News. His current position as co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus would have given some basis to argue that he could be competitive in a general election. And unlikeStefanik andZeldin, Reed would not have needed to explain a vote to overturn the Electoral College results hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But Reed said he won’t be running for any office following an accusation of sexual misconduct from a former lobbyist.

Janice Dean

Few people have done more to raise public awareness about COVID-19 nursing home deaths than a Fox News senior meteorologist wholost two in-laws to the pandemic. Her connection to the network most hated by Democrats would complicate any run for statewide office, but at least critics of the Canadian-born TV personality would not have to worry about her leveraging a campaign for a future White House run. Still, she has demonstrated no interest in running, despite her name getting thrown around.

Zach Williams
is senior state politics reporter at City & State.
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