Rep. Lee Zeldin Wednesday said he hasn't decided if he will run for governor of New York in the wake of the growing scandals facing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but he did acknowledge he's exploring a campaign — and that he will "only do this race if we can come in first."
"I enjoy the House," the New York Republican told Fox News' "America Reports," adding that he has gotten several calls over the past week from people looking for Cuomo to be replaced because they are concerned about the direction in which the state is going.
"After speaking to my family I announced I will be exploring running for governor of New York against Andrew Cuomo in 2022," Zeldin confirmed. "He has to go."
Zeldin's comments concerning running for office came before Cuomo's press conference, during which the governor said he feels "awful" and "embarrassed" about the situation but will not resign his post, although he is sorry if he made anyone feel uncomfortable.
After Cuomo's statements, Zeldin said there are still major questions, including whether his apology will be good enough for the three women, two of whom are from his administration, who have accused him of sexual harassment.
"We don't know if there will be other claims made from other former employees," said Zeldin. "The issue with the bullying and the sexual harassment and intimidation was with three women that spoke up. You had an assembly man talking about the phone call from Governor Andrew Cuomo threatening to destroy his career."
Still, Zeldin said before Cuomo's press conference that there is a "big question" whether he can run and win, so he is reaching out to determine his options.
"I believe that Gov. Cuomo will be on the ballot next year," said Zeldin. "Things could change. That's what Gov. Cuomo is stating. I am not motivated by the idea of finishing in second."
But when asked directly if he is going to run, Zeldin replied that he is "going to spend the next few weeks reaching out to other people to hear what they have to say. I may run for governor next year. I have not yet decided. But I will be actively exploring. I believe that Gov. Cuomo will go. I will do my part to make sure that happens."
Cuomo is in his third term, the congressman said, and he is intent on pursuing a fourth term.
In addition to the reports concerning under-reporting deaths in the state's nursing homes, along with claims from three women that Cuomo sexually harrassed them, people in New York are concerned about "many other issues," said Zeldin.
Among those are the cost of living, the impact of the pandemic and small business closures, schools remaining closed, and the erosion of public safety, said Zeldin.
"We saw the riots in New York City and the defund the police movement and those are just a sampling," said Zeldin. "We have family and friends who are leaving the state. I have a lot of family members who have left."
The congressman added that he thinks Cuomo should resign, but he does not think he will do that.
After Cuomo's statements, Zeldin added that there is a "longstanding battle" between the governor and members of his own party.
"No one is stepping forward and talking about that time 5 years ago, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo went to bat for them," he said. "That's not his style. There is no one here sticking up for him ... there are a lot of people who have much bigger issues."
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