WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik raised $1.2 million for her campaign from January to April, demonstrating her formidable fundraising and handing her a strong base on which to launch a campaign for governor or seek re-election in Congress.
The Schuylerville Republican “is not ruling anything out — nor will she make her decision based on others’ timetables,” her adviser Alex DeGrasse said when asked about a challenge to embattled incumbent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is in his third term and has indicated he will seek a fourth.
“Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election,” DeGrasse said. “She continues to set records as the most prolific New York Republican fundraiser ever in state history consistently earning the strongest performance at the ballot-box cycle after cycle on Election Day.”
Stefanik has positioned herself as one of Cuomo’s biggest critics, calling for his resignation over sexual harassment allegations and his handling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. She also sells merchandise tagging Cuomo as the “worst governor in America,” part of her very public feud with the governor.
Stefanik is not tamping down rampant speculation that she will run for governor, even as a congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley, has officially announced his candidacy.
The fourth-term congresswoman has $2.5 million campaign cash on hand in her congressional campaign account, her campaign announced Wednesday. Her campaign team said her fundraising haul and cash on hand are the largest on record for a North Country congressional candidate in the first quarter of a campaign cycle.
It’s more than likely that Stefanik could use her congressional campaign bounty to support a gubernatorial run, although the state Board of Elections has not ruled on the question.
John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, noted that recent campaigns in which candidates for federal office used those funds to run for state positions were not successfully challenged. They included U.S. Rep Sean Patrick Maloney, who used his congressional campaign funds to run for state attorney general in 2018, and Don Boyajian, who ended his congressional campaign against Stefanik in 2018 to run for state Assembly.
“In addition, I believe there is a court case from 1994 involving Gov. [George E.] Pataki which stated that generally a federal to state transfer was permissible,” Conklin said.
Stefanik has also positioned herself as a key player in the fight to help Republicans take back the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022. They must flip eight seats to do it.
Since the November election, Stefanik’s E-PAC has already donated over $55,000 to female candidates and committees and has raised $250,000 through WinRed for female candidates, including Republican Julia Letlow, who recently won a special House election in Louisiana after the death of her husband, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow.
Stefanik blasts her supporters daily with emails and texts urging them to contribute to help her oppose President Joe Biden’s “gun-grabbing” policies and to support Republican races elsewhere in the country.
Zeldin, a four-term congressman who like Stefanik emerged as a strong ally for President Donald Trump, is the only Republican candidate now declared against Cuomo.
But several others are considering campaigns too, including Andrew Giuliani, the son of Trump’s lawyer and former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani; and three former gubernatorial candidates and current or former county executives: Joel Giambra of Erie County, Rob Astorino of Westchester County and Marc Molinaro of Dutchess County.
Molinaro may be mulling a run for governor or a challenge to U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, in the purple 19th District. Reached by text message Wednesday, Molinaro said he has “no news … yet.”