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Lee Zeldin, former GOP nominee for New York gov, says George Santos should quit

Zeldin, who was also a congressman, said if he were Santos ‘I would have resigned’

Republican Lee Zeldin, who came within 6 points of winning the New York governor’s race last year, added his voice to the growing chorus calling for the resignation of disgraced GOP Rep. George Santos.

Zeldin, who is also a former congressman, on Monday told the New York Post that Santos, who was indicted on numerous felony charges last week, should step down.

“The people who voted for him are more upset than the people who didn’t vote for him,” he said. “If I were him I would have resigned.”

Zeldin added that Santos’ constituents were “embarrassed” by him and that his presence in the U.S. House could harm other first-term Republicans. The entire U.S. House faces reelection in 2024. 

It’s not the first time that Zeldin has taken aim at Santos, whose district includes parts of Long Island and the New York City borough of Queens. In January, as more and more of Santos’ claims — about his employment history, being Jewish and excelling at volleyball in college, among others — were exposed as lies, Zeldin said in a Fox Business interview that support for Santos was “cratering” and that people who voted for him were “upset” and “outraged.”

“There were a lot of people who were genuinely supporting him, voting for him, volunteering for him,” he said. “And they were just at this point crushed once the news came out, of what was true and what wasn’t true, and unfortunately a lot more has come out that was false than accurate.” 

A spokesperson for Santos did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

A swing district

On May 10, Santos was charged with 13 felony counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress. Following the indictment, numerous Long Island elected officials, including several members of the Jewish community, once more called on Santos to step down — a step he has adamantly refused to consider. 

There was little overlap between the Santos and Zeldin campaign in 2022, but an exception was Nancy Marks. She was Zeldin’s longtime campaign treasurer, but also filled that role for Santos. According to The New York Times, Santos has attempted to shift the blame for potential campaign financial crimes onto Marks. She has said she was among those fooled by Santos. 

Democrats, early and robustly, have demanded his resignation. 

In Congress, some Republicans, including Sen. Mitt Romney, have also demanded that Santos leave. That call has been taken up by some House Republicans. But overall reaction in the House GOP has been muted. Republicans hold a slim majority in the body, and Santos represents a swing district. 

Several high-ranking House Republicans have said that no decision on Santos’ future can be made until the legal process plays out. 

In the 2022 election, Zeldin proved slightly more popular than Santos in New York’s 3rd District. Although previously represented in the House by Democrat Tom Suozzi, and having gone Democratic in every presidential election save one since 1992, Zeldin secured over 56% of the district’s vote in the governor’s race against Democrat Kathy Hochul.

Santos, by contrast, got just under 54% of the vote. 

Zeldin this week launched Zeldin Cares, a charitable organization. According to its website, it works with local communities on veterans issues, homelessness, public safety, economic mobility, the environment and other challenges.

In February, he formed a federal fundraising political action committee.

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