Republicans hope to oust Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year, but first they have to nominate a candidate. County leaders have coalesced behind Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island, and party leaders are expected to informally back his candidacy at a June 28 straw poll. Other candidates appear to be in danger of falling too far behind in the GOP gubernatorial race to ever catch up by the time the June 2022 primary rolls around.
The GOP faces long odds at winning the November election despite the litany of scandals overshadowing Cuomo, who faces the possibility of another competitive primary if he chooses to run for a fourth term. 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, who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election with the help of political leaders like Zeldin.
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 June 28.
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.
The 35-year-old son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has had an interesting few weeks on the campaign trail. He has discussed the daddy issues behind his longshot bid and spun how his past gig as a presidential golf buddy made him the “quarterback” of COVID-19 relief programs last year. His political chutzpah might even match his father’s considering their shared knack for unexpectedly popping up at small businesses. That does not mean Andrew Giuliani will land at the Executive Mansion, but his totally original “pro-business, pro-police, pro-school choice” platform could take him somewhere especially if his campaign-commissioned poll can be trusted.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro
Marc Molinaro may still have ambitions for higher office, but his May endorsement of Zeldin means a 2022 gubernatorial run is not happening. While Molinaro was the GOP standard-bearer just four years ago, he would have faced an uphill battle against a MAGA-man like Zeldin. The party is continuing to move to the right, and Molinaro’s departure from the race all but ensures that the Republicans will cede a lot of the political center despite how that limits their chances in November.
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. There has been talk this spring of Giambra jumping into the race, but it does not appear to be happening.
Rep. John Katko
His vote for impeachment and reputation for being a political moderate make the Central New York Congress member an odd fit in a party still defined by the former president. That is likely a key factor in the four-term incumbent demonstrating zero interest publicly in running for governor despite reported efforts by some party leaders to recruit him. Not running is probably a smart move considering the slim odds of beating the eventual Democratic nominee and the fact that Katko would have to give up his hard-won congressional seat to vie for the office.
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 told The 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.
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.