New York's last GOP governor thinks 2022 could be the year his party reclaims control of the state's executive mansion, particularly if former Gov. Andrew Cuomo declares his candidacy.

Former Gov. George Pataki, who held the position from 1995 to 2006, predicted that an independent run from Cuomo would "be the best thing that ever happened to the state, because he'd get crushed and, in the process, almost guarantee a Republican victory."

"I just pray that Andrew Cuomo decides to jump in the race," he said on WABC 770 AM Sunday morning.


But Pataki predicted Cuomo, who is "the most unpopular political figure in New York state," would decide against entering a race where he would be "embarrassed horribly" by attracting only the support of "hardcore partisan Democrats."

Even without Cuomo entering the fray and siphoning off support from Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has the institutional backing of the state's Democratic Party, Republicans have a rare opportunity for victory in a deep blue state.

"We have a state heading in the wrong direction and a governor who is vulnerable on the record she's had so far. The third piece you need is a good Republican candidate, and we have a number of people out there. ... For the first time, we have incredible candidates running in a primary, any one of whom I think could win the general," he continued.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, former special assistant to the president Andrew Giuliani, and businessman Harry Wilson have all declared their candidacy for the GOP nomination.

Hochul, who was Cuomo's lieutenant governor during his final years in office, has attracted backlash for many of her decisions since ascending to the governorship last August. Her selection of embattled former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin as her running mate led to a public relations embarrassment when he resigned amid federal bribery conspiracy charges, which he denies. State lawmakers scrambled to allow Hochul to select a new running mate, Rep. Antonio Delgado.


Cuomo resigned amid pressure from within his own party following a bombshell Aug. 3, 2021, report from the state's attorney general concluding he had sexually harassed at least 11 women. But the former governor, who denied all claims of wrongdoing and has been critical of his successor, has signaled he could make a political comeback and challenge Hochul, whose poll numbers have been sinking in recent weeks, with an independent bid in November.

The Democratic primary was slated to take place on June 28, but after New York's congressional maps were struck down in the state's highest court as unconstitutionally gerrymandered, most primary races were pushed back to late August.