BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a first-of-its-kind state of emergency and seven-point plan to deal with a spike in gun violence in New York state, his potential Republican opponent in 2022 criticized him for failing to acknowledge the root cause of the problem.

"Instead of putting handcuffs on criminals, we're putting handcuffs on police. You have to reverse cashless bail. You have to keep qualified immunity. It's impacting morale for our law enforcement. You have to look at why do we have the surge we do," U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin said.

Zeldin said criminal justice reform over the last several years from the state Legislature and Cuomo that, for instance, allows some people arrested with illegal firearms to immediately be released without bail, have created issues. He said without addressing it, Cuomo's plan is undermined.

"If there is anything that the governor wants to propose where an idea can be part of a solution or compromise, you have to be willing to first identify why do we have this surge in the first place and this governor totally ignores that in the way he approached yesterday's press conference," he said.

Reversing those reforms is a key part of Zeldin's platform that also includes ensuring critical race theory is not taught in New York schools, vaccines and masks are not required for children to be in classrooms and the state deals with health care and Medicaid inefficiencies.

Although other candidates remain in the Republican primary race, state GOP chair Nick Langworthy said he's emerged as a clear favorite after earning 85 percent of a weighted straw poll of county chairs late last month.

"We have great Republicans and patriots who have stepped forward, but the vote for Lee was an unquestionable mandate of support and shows the strength and the momentum that his candidacy has taken across the state," Langworthy said.

Zeldin said he has a track record not just of winning races in both the state Senate and U.S. House, but also pulling Democratic and independent votes in purple districts. When asked if he needs to distance himself from former President Donald Trump to win the governor's race, he responded that he has always been his own man and his ideas this campaign are his own.