But for Giuliani, a former White House official and frequent golf partner of the 45th president, getting Trump’s backing is no slam dunk. The former president is said to be partial to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), a longtime GOP congressman and friend of the Trump family, who has been floated as a possible candidate himself.
Giuliani, whose interest in the race was first reported by the Washington Examiner, said he placed a call to the congressman earlier this week before announcing that he was considering a gubernatorial bid.
“Sometimes politics can get bloody, but the truth is we both want to figure out how to help save New York,” Giuliani said, adding that he encouraged Trump to wait until the GOP primary field takes shape before offering up an endorsement. “He’ll probably have lots of allies in this. Best thing to do is sit back and watch, see a good, healthy primary and go from there.”
Giuliani, who lived in Washington during Trump’s presidency, has no prior elected office experience and is 35 years old. He said he was first approached about the race by top Republican donors at the end of March and intends to make a final decision later this month. He is currently scheduled to meet with New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy and a host of state GOP officials on April 19 to pitch his case for the job and solicit their support.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who served during the Mayor Giuliani administration, said he has encouraged Giuliani to run for office. Giuliani has also received support from former Trump campaign aide Boris Epshteyn, who has been informally advising him on the race.
“He’s lived in that arena, he’s worked for President Trump for three years. I think between his experience in the political world and having access to the advisers he would have, I think he would have a phenomenal campaign and I think he would make a great governor,” said Kerik, who was sentenced on tax fraud charges in 2010 but later had his sentence commuted by Trump.
New York has not had a Republican governor since 2006 and is home to Democratic supermajorities in both houses of its state legislature. Nevertheless, Giuliani insisted the political climate is ripe for a statewide Republican victory given current Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, rising crime rates and the state’s tax burden. Should he run, Giuliani said he would focus on “promoting a pro-job, pro-small business” policies, curbing crime rates across the state and expanding school choice for parents.
“I’ve had some big donors who started to push and said, ‘We want you to do this.’ Three weeks ago I wasn’t really thinking about this to be honest,” he said.
Zeldin met with Trump last month at Mar-a-Lago, according to Fox News, and has also been encouraged by allies of the former president to run for governor. He has not made any public announcements but appears to already have the backing of some of the president’s closest aides.
On Tuesday, senior Trump adviser Jason Miller told Fox News, “I can think of no other candidate who doesn’t have the last name of Trump that MAGA supporters are more excited about potentially running for governor in 2022 than Lee Zeldin.” Miller did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Cuomo himself is considering a run for his fourth term next year, despite facing accusations of inappropriate touching and sexual harassment from numerous women. New York’s attorney general is investigating those claims of sexual harassment and the governor has also come under fire for his handling and accounting of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. Most members of New York’s congressional delegation, including its two Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have called on Cuomo to step down. But he continues to hold a positive approval rating among the state’s Democratic voters.
Cuomo’s approval rating hovered above 50 percent among New York voters according to a recent Morning Consult poll.