CNN  — 

Republican Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, kicked off his 2022 New York gubernatorial campaign on Tuesday with a barrage of attacks on current Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo – plus a head-scratching explanation for why he has not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Lower Manhattan, Giuliani took aim at Cuomo over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. But Giuliani, who contracted the disease late last year, also said he had not been vaccinated and wouldn’t consider getting the shot until “I don’t have the antibodies anymore.”

Guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges vaccination regardless of past infection, citing “the severe health risks associated with Covid-19 and the fact that reinfection with Covid-19 is possible.” Giuliani, 35, said he is regularly tested for antibodies.

A first-time candidate, Giuliani most recently worked in former President Donald Trump’s White House after spending a brief time as a professional golfer. He faces long odds in both the Republican primary and any general election campaign in the deep blue state.

Before any chance of a face-off with Cuomo, who has not yet committed to running for a fourth term, Giuliani will have to win a Republican primary that already has two candidates with more experience and deeper connections to the current state GOP. And Giuliani’s proximity to Trump could also help galvanize Democrats after a potentially fractious primary.

No Republican has won statewide office in New York since 2002, when former Gov. George Pataki was elected to a third term.

Cuomo, though politically wounded by scandals involving sexual harassment allegations and information-sharing pertaining to nursing home Covid-19 deaths, would be a heavy favorite if he seeks and wins the Democratic nomination again next year. He has yet to announce whether he will run for a fourth term.

He is currently being investigated by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, state assembly lawmakers. CNN reported earlier this year that the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn, along with the FBI, had been scrutinizing the handling of data surrounding Covid-19 deaths in long term care facilities.

‘The Giuliani playbook’

The younger Giuliani said his father – whom he described as the “greatest” mayor in American history – would play an active role in the campaign. He added that the two had spoken at length about it and that he would be “foolish” not to “use him as an asset.”

“There’s no more effective playbook than the Giuliani playbook,” he told reporters, “and we will be implementing the Giuliani playbook to make sure that we can turn around New York state.”

Though he has talked up his relationship with Trump, Giuliani’s early messaging has been less inflammatory and more in line with familiar Republican criticism of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic and economy.

“One of the things New Yorkers will learn about me if they don’t know that already is that I’m a genuine guy. I’m not going to run away from my past,” Giuliani said at his kick-off event. “I worked four years in the White House with President Trump – I’ll say that right now. I’m not running from it, I’m not hiding from it.”

Giuliani, who told CNN earlier in the day that he has discussed his campaign with Trump, touted the appeal of a potential clash of political dynasties.

“The President said to me, he said, you know ‘Holy smokes, Giuliani-Cuomo. That’s like Ali-Frazier,’” Giuliani said. “I think it will be the biggest race in the country if it’s the two of us.”

As mayor, Rudy Giuliani famously endorsed Cuomo’s father, the late former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo over Pataki, his Republican challenger in 1994. Pataki won the race, denying the elder Cuomo a fourth term.

A crowded field

Before Andrew Giuliani steps into the ring for a headline-grabbing political prize fight, he will have to defeat more seasoned New York Republicans, including New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, another Trump loyalist, and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran a losing campaign for the same job in 2014.

On Tuesday afternoon, as he had done in the run-up to his announcement, Giuliani focused on the drop in the state’s population, which, following the 2020 census, cost New York a seat in Congress. He has also expressed admiration for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican with close ties to Trump who could become a 2024 GOP presidential primary favorite if he wins reelection next year.

“One of the first calls that I’m going to make on January 1st, 2023, is to Gov. DeSantis and tell him that his ride, his easy ride – it’s done with, Ron,” Giuliani said. “I’m sorry to say that. Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, they’re the ‘realtors of the year’ down in Florida. Not gonna be with a Gov. Giuliani.”

Giuliani described his time in Florida helping Trump get settled after the former president left the White House as a motivating factor in his decision to run, telling CNN that the “intangible optimism” he felt there reminded him of “that feeling I used to get” in New York.

Jake Menges, a former lobbyist and attorney who worked with Rudy Giuliani during his time as mayor and helped launch Keep Florida Great, a Trump-aligned super PAC, will manage the younger Giuliani’s campaign.

Legal challenges

In addition to the clear challenges ahead, the younger Giuliani’s campaign could also face headwinds related to the legal troubles of his father, whose popularity in New York has dropped precipitously over the last decade. The former mayor’s decision to join Trump’s inner circle and become one of the national mouthpieces for the former President’s election conspiracy theories and lies has also undermined what remained of the family brand.

Rudy Giuliani has also been the focus of an investigation concerning his activities in Ukraine, including whether he conducted illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials while he pursued an investigation linked to Trump’s primary political rival, President Joe Biden, CNN has reported.

“I love and I trust my father and I think he’s the subject of a political investigation,” Andrew Giuliani said on Tuesday, predicting that he would “be completely vindicated.”

The elder Giuliani hasn’t been charged and has denied wrongdoing. Federal authorities recently searched properties associated with him.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Rob Astorino’s title. He is the former Westchester County executive. This story has also been updated with details from Giuliani’s kickoff event.

CNN’s Gabby Orr contributed to this report.