Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, told The Daily Star on Thursday that he will be entering the race for New York's 19th Congressional District seat held by retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook.
A formal kick-off for the campaign will be scheduled soon, Lopez said.
Lopez, 54, expressed optimism about his potential to win the Republican and Conservative party primaries in June as well as the general election in November 2016, saying he will run on his record as a balanced problem solver who worked vigorously to address the region's relief needs following the floods of 2011 and has forged close bonds with people in the counties he represents in Albany.
"I just see myself as a neighbor," Lopez said. "I work for the people of my district faithfully, consistently and I do it passionately."
A formal filing with the Federal Elections Commission is being prepared this week, Lopez said.
Gibson, who won re-election in a landslide last year over wealthy Democratic newcomer Sean Eldridge, is considering running for statewide office in 2018 and said in January that the current term in office will be his final one.
Since then, John Faso, a Republican from Columbia County who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, has entered the House race, as has Andrew Heaney, a Dutchess County oil company executive who raised some $643,256 in the quarter ending Sept. 30.
Also considering entering the race is hay company executive Robert Bishop of Hamden.
Lopez said voters know him as the candidate "who has been there to defend against the Common Core" curriculum that upset many parents and teachers, and has been passionate in defending gun rights spelled out in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"My engagement is not rhetorical," he said." I am interested in thoughtful engagement."
He noted that he was initially opposed to legalizing medical marijuana, but eventually supported it once he became convinced there would be sufficient controls and heard doctors explain that it belonged in the array of medications available to those suffering from chronic ailments
After Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee damaged scores of homes in the region four years ago, Lopez helped numerous residents muck out their houses and pushed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to speed up the delivery of relief to those whose houses were damaged or destroyed.
The Assembly district represented by Lopez includes all of Schoharie County, as well as portions of Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Ulster and Chenango counties. A graduate of the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, Lopez holds a master's degree in public administration from the State University at Albany.
Gibson is expected to remain neutral throughout a Republican primary.