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Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island said he has received a lot of calls from Empire State voters in the past few months, encouraging him to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for office next year.

It is an encouragement he says he takes seriously.

“I’ve had a lot of passionate outreach recently from New Yorkers who are emotional about our state, telling me, ‘If you don’t run and you don’t win, I’m leaving,’” he said in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

Leaving is something a lot of New Yorkers did last year, in particular from the five boroughs. Unacast, a location analytics company, estimated 3.57 million people left New York City last year between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7. They were replaced by just 3.5 million people earning lower wages, who moved in at the same time. That net 70,000-person loss resulted in $34 billion in lost income.

All year, the press and popular culture lauded Cuomo as a folk hero as they livestreamed his daily press briefings and declared his demeanor far superior to that of President Donald Trump. Yet, an investigation by the New York attorney general, released last month, showed his administration misled everyone on the number of deaths in nursing homes. As of Jan. 19, 12,743 long-term care residents had died of the virus — a number that far exceeds the governor’s official tally of 8,505. That made the state’s number one of the highest in the country.

In March of last year, Cuomo ordered elderly people who had been hospitalized with the virus to be returned to the facilities where they had been living.

The controversy escalated on Feb. 11, when a top Cuomo aide, Melissa DeRosa, apologized to Democratic lawmakers during a private video conference call that Cuomo had withheld the state’s nursing home death toll from COVID-19 — telling them they froze out of fear that the real numbers would be used against them by federal prosecutors.

Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean has relentlessly condemned Cuomo for signing the executive order that placed coronavirus positive elderly patients in long-term care facilities — for a long time, she was the only person questioning his tactics.

She, along with two other members of New York’s congressional delegation, Reps. Tom Reed and Elise Stefanik, are the three other names that have all been circulated in Republican circles as possible candidates to challenge Cuomo and his $17 million war chest.

Zeldin, 41, said Cuomo’s lack of transparency is a big reason why the governor is vulnerable. “New Yorkers want honesty and an end to the lies and corruption that have become the hallmark of Cuomo’s reign," Zeldin said. "His fatally flawed nursing home policy is just the latest in a long history of failing our state."

Zeldin ticked off the Empire State's other major challenges as well. “New York has become increasingly unaffordable, with less freedom and eroded public safety," he said. "We used to be known as a place where you could make the American dream come true. Today, it is instead a state heading in the wrong direction and holding too many people back.”

The Cuomo backlash has been mixed. While a new Siena College statewide poll of voters did show that only 39% approved of Cuomo's handling of making public data related to nursing home deaths available, with 55% disapproving, overall, he still holds a 61% approval rating on the issue of the pandemic. But that poll was conducted before his aide's admission of deliberately withholding information in order to evade investigators. His father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, lost a similar bid for a fourth term in 1994 to Republican George Pataki, thanks to the erosion of support for Cuomo outside of New York City and Albany.

Exit polls at the time showed that voters thought the elder Cuomo had been in office too long. They were willing to give a little-known state senator from suburban Peekskill a chance. Pataki became the first Republican governor in two decades, and he was elected to three consecutive terms.

Pataki is the last Republican to hold any statewide office in New York.

“Millions of New Yorkers from all walks of life are sick and tired of the incompetence of Andrew Cuomo and his divisive, abusive, and vengeful management style," Zeldin told me. "Cuomo’s corruption, lies, and cover-ups have become all too commonplace. Many see this election as their last opportunity to change the direction of New York,” he said.

Zeldin was reelected to a fourth term in New York’s 1st Congressional District in eastern Long Island in November. The Iraq War veteran is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. He served in Albany when he was a state senator.

New York State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar said that current calls for Cuomo’s impeachment and a removal of his emergency powers aren’t just bad optics for the governor. “People in the state want better from their chief executive," he said. "This goes deeper than any bad headlines he’s been able to skirt before."

Those bad optics have led the influential conservative to look at viable candidates to run for governor, something Kassar says requires the ability to raise millions and to deliver a meaningful message to voters weary of Cuomo’s bullying and lack of transparency. Kassar said that he sees that in Zeldin, whom he has been encouraging to run, along with a couple of others. “He is very high on my list," Kassar said. "I've known him since he was in the New York State Senate. I know him to be a good legislator, very well-committed to conservative principles, and I believe would make a strong candidate for governor.”

All of the prospective candidates are likely listening to voters about what they want in a governor, Zeldin said. That is deliberate, to strike a contrast with Cuomo's lack of transparency.

“Transparency is absolutely critical, especially now that so many New Yorkers have lost trust in state government due to the Cuomo administration’s COVID-19 related cover-ups.”

Zeldin lives in Shirley, a few blocks from the house he grew up in. He and his wife Diana are the parents of twin teenage daughters who attend the same high school he attended in the 1990s.

He said his desire to serve began in childhood, “All I ever wanted to do was join the military, all I knew for sure when I was entering my freshman year of college I wanted to sign up for the Army ROTC.”

He did just that when he entered SUNY Albany as a freshman. Zeldin said it was everything he imagined it would be. “My experience in the ROTC convinced me this was the path I would be on,” he said.

His path to a career in the Army was sidetracked when his twin daughters were born prematurely and went through months of medical challenges that included delicate brain surgery and a month in the ICU. “My priorities in life changed," he said. “I went from active duty to the reserves. I wanted to continue to serve my community, so I made the decision to run for office.”

Zeldin ran and lost in his first bid for Congress in 2008. But he then won a state Senate seat in 2010, where he served until he ran and won his current congressional seat in 2014.

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Anna Ruch, 33, becomes the third woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment

March 2, 2021 11:08 AM | With information from DPA

15 minutes. Another woman, the third so far, accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. The complaint comes after 2 other women, aides of the politician, did the same in recent days.

According to the newspaper The New York Times, the third woman, identified as Anna Ruch, 33, reported that Cuomo asked if he could kiss her while putting his hands on her cheeks at a wedding in which they coincided in September 2019 in New York City.

Ruch, who said she felt “uncomfortable” and “embarrassed” after what happened, explained that she did not know Cuomo until that day.

She also stated that she approached him to thank him for giving a toast to the newlyweds. After that, the governor repeatedly put his hand on the small of Ruch’s back, who clarified that he withdrew it. It was then that Cuomo pointed out that Ruch seemed “aggressive”, put his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her.

I was very confused, shocked and embarrassed“Ruch said. His testimony was corroborated by a friend, text messages of the time and photographs of the event.” I turned my head and had no words at the time, “he lamented.

A spokesperson for Cuomo, cited by The New York Times, did not specifically refer to Ruch’s assertions and referred to the statement the governor issued on Sunday. In the text, he acknowledged that some things he had said could have been “misinterpreted as unsolicited flirtation.”

Research

The other 2 women who claimed to have been sexually harassed by Cuomo did work for him, unlike Ruch. This was a member of the Barack Obama Administration and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020.

Charlotte Bennet, 25, said the New York governor asked her questions about her sex life and asked if she had slept with older men. For her part, Lindsey Boylan said that Cuomo made inappropriate comments and that he kissed her without her consent. Cuomo rejected both accusations.

For her part, the Attorney General of New York, Letitia james, announced Sunday the opening of an investigation and that his office will hire a law firm to supervise it. In addition, he assured that it will provide investigators with the ability to call witnesses to testify.

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