Even after the scandalous unraveling of the one-time freshman GOP star George Santos, at least one Republican is daring to try to hold on to the seat for his party.
Kellen Curry, an Afghanistan war veteran and former Wall Street banker, said he had two moments of reckoning that prompted him to run for New York's third congressional seat: the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the revelations that Santos had 'completely defrauded the American public.'
'I had an incredibly powerful experience there, serving alongside allies in that in that effort and, and had teammates who unfortunately did not come back home,' Curry told DailyMail.com in an interview.
'Watching the disastrous withdrawal - Afghans clinging from planes and the 13 Marines that were killed,I just felt like, we deserve to have leaders in our national legislature that is reflective of the service and sacrifice of myself and so many others who have worn the uniform.'
'Santos was not reflective of that caliber.'
Santos was the first openly gay House GOP member and one of four to flip a blue seat in New York's own 'red wave.' Now he's the conman of the conference and stares downa 13-count federal indictment with up to 20 years in prison.
Kellen Curry, an Afghanistan war veteran and former Wall Street banker, said he had two moments of reckoning that prompted him to run for New York's third congressional seat
'I had an incredibly powerful experience there, serving alongside allies in that in that effort and, and had teammates who unfortunately did not come back home,' Curry told DailyMail.com in an interview
Curry was attached to an Afghan military unit called the Special Mission Wing, training on Taliban and ISIS-K offensive operations the very pilots that swiftly collapsed to the Taliban as the U.S. pulled out
Asked about the Santos lie that outraged him the most, Curry pointed to an allegation that Santosstole $3,000 he raised for life-saving surgery for a homeless Navy veteran's cancer-stricken dog.
After setting up a GoFundMe, Santos allegedly never handed over the funds and the dog died.
While five are already vying to take on Santos on the Democratic side, Curry is the indicted congressman's only GOP primary challenger.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said he will not back Santos' reelection, as have the New York State and local parties.
As for the support he's garnered, 'a lot of people are certainly intrigued,' Curry said.
'I've had a number of good conversations both in D.C., in the district and around the state,' he continued. 'It's still early. I think people rightfully want to make sure we do our homework this time.'
House Republicans on Wednesday voted to toss a Democrat-led resolution to expel Santos back to the Ethics Committee - where an investigation could determine a full House vote is needed to expel the congressman.
The speaker is stuck between needing Santos' vote in the narrowly divided conference and accepting the damage Santos has done to the conference's reputation.
Curry is the only Republican running in a primary against George Santos
If Santos were expelled, his seat would be open until a special election could decide the winner. That district is rated 'lean Democrat' by Cook Political Report.
'We believe that the best candidate in this race would be me, and we would welcome Mr. McCarthy's support,' Curry said.
Curry was raised on an Air Force base in Oklahoma and came to New York's third by way of a career on Wall Street as a banker at J.P. Morgan.
'I think a Republican can win this seat. It's a 50/50 district, a Republican with the right message, that is,' Curry said.
He said he thought his service and finance background would play well in the suburban New York City district - the nation's fourth wealthiest district in the country.
'A number of the constituents here resonate with coming in and out of the city and working in financial services. And then there's some natural constituencies in in the districts such as the Merchant Marine Academy. Their alumni have been have been very supportive, so far.
'Then it's working with small businesses - when I was in the military that's what I did: I was a procurement and contracting guy working with businesses.'
Curry was attached to an Afghan military unit called the Special Mission Wing, training on Taliban and ISIS-K offensive operations the very pilots that swiftly collapsed to the Taliban as the U.S. pulled out.
Curry insists the Biden administration ignored the advice of its top generals in favor of following the political winds.
'It was driven by domestic politics and and not going out and articulating to the American people why keeping a residual force, which was the recommendation of a number of, our generals was important.'
Curry said not all of the blame fell on Biden, as past administrations had equipped the Afghans with technology that was too advanced for them to maintain on their own.
'The Afghans became too dependent on American forces, but that was something that the Biden administration should have recognized that if we bowed out immediately, then you know, things would collapse as they as they did.'
At the time, Biden expressed frustration that Afghan forces fell as quickly as they did - insisting they hadn't wanted to fight - though they lost some 66,000 over the course of 20 years of battle.
'American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war, and dying in a war, that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,' Biden said at the time. He also insisted he was bound by a Trump-era peace deal with the Taliban that promised all troops would move out.
'They're using the Trump years as a pretext for their own kind of failure to see around the corner and to move and to rise above and to make decisions beyond domestic politics,' Curry said.
Curry is confident he can win his own race by 'sticking to the issues' and keeping it local, after wall-to-wall media coverage of Santos, the 34-year-old freshman whose never-ending lies went under the radar until after the election.
'When I go around the district, people are -- they get the whole Santos thing and they're kind of sick and tired of talking about it.'
'Right now we have the most ineffective member of Congress,' Curry added.
'So what people want to hear is what impacts them on a daily basis -we talk about things like achieving the gold standard or constituency services. We talk about things like restoring funding for the Merchant Marine Academy so we can rebuild the campus. We talk about what federal resources we think we can bring to bear in our public schools to increase mental health services for our youth. We talk about lowering the cost of living on Long Island.'
He said his goal is to restore faith in politics.
'It's about communicating to people that we have something to fight for. It gets so dejected and so cynical about our politics,' the candidate said.
'If you think about it, there are people right now pouring across the border into this country to take part in the American dream. And so we still have something to fight for. We still have a country that's worth saving.'
Curry and Santos will go head-to-head in a June 2024 primary - if the current congressman makes it that long without being expelled.
On the left, Zak Malamad, the founder of Next 50, a group that raises money for candidates under 50 years old, Will Murphy, an attorney and professor focused on restoring SALT deductions and gun reform, Josh Lafazan, a member of theNassau County Legislature, and Anna Kaplan, a former state senator, have all announced runs in the district.