October 31, 2022

New York’s Governor Is in Trouble

The race between incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin is coming down to the wire.

This year’s New York gubernatorial race was considered an easy win for Democrats a few weeks ago, with incumbent Kathy Hochul expected to cruise to victory over her Republican challenger, Congressman Lee Zeldin. However, as the election heads into its final week, Democrats find themselves facing a tough contest to defend the governor’s seat in one of the nation’s bluest and most populous states.

New York is deep blue; there’s no denying it. Apart from the three terms of Republican George Pataki, who was governor from 1995 to 2006, the state has had only Democrat governors since 1975. This includes recent gems like Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo, who both resigned in disgrace for rampant sexual misconduct. Democrats currently control supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature and have controlled the New York State Assembly since 1976.

New York is also in deep trouble. It consistently ranks among the bottom tier of U.S. states for job opportunities and economic growth. It ranks among the highest in individual and business taxes, and all its major cities are experiencing a historic crime surge. An eye-popping 1.4 million people have fled the state since the 2010 census, and it lost two congressional seats in the 2020 redistricting.

It’s hard not to blame the Democrats and their power base for this state of affairs. What other excuse can be made when considering the hold that Democrats have had on the state for decades? That’s where Hochul comes in. A former county clerk from Western New York, she won a special election to Congress in 2011 and served one term before being beaten for reelection. Hers is hardly the record of a rising political star. And yet she became Cuomo’s running mate in 2014 and served as his lieutenant governor until he was forced to resign in 2021.

Since becoming the state’s first female governor, Hochul has been very busy shoring up her leftist political bona fides. She supported a rash of new legislation that ranged from tightening state gun laws to increasing abortion access and softening criminal legislation with cashless bail and lighter sentencing guidelines. Through it all, Hochul and her inner circle assumed that election to a full term in November would be a given in such a left-leaning state.

But the Democrats made a significant miscalculation in underestimating Hochul’s opponent. Zeldin, an Army veteran, former state senator, and current congressional representative, has proven a vigorous opponent who has openly challenged Hochul on the issues of concern to state residents, including one of the biggest of all: crime. For her part, Hochul has tried to avoid taking on Zeldin directly, hoping to stay above the fray and run out the clock with her canned rhetoric and favorable media coverage.

The crime issue became unavoidable, however, for two high-profile reasons: Zeldin was attacked at a campaign rally in July, and then his daughters were home alone when a shooting took place early last month just outside their suburban Long Island home.

In their recent debate, Zeldin challenged Hochul on her inability to address rising crime. Hochul arrogantly responded, “I don’t know why that’s so important to you.” She then argued that the solution to the state’s rampant crime was to toughen its gun control laws. Perhaps she was unaware that her state already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

This is typical of a flat-footed candidate who gives the appearance of someone who can’t be bothered with annoyances such as explaining her terrible policies to voters and having to endure the inconvenience of an election.

Zeldin offers a complete change from Hochul’s out-of-touch politics. He has tapped into the issues that concern voters, which explains his sharp rise in the polls. Democrat Party leaders fear Zeldin’s momentum, and they are trying desperately to rally their base in the closing days.

New York being the Democrat bastion that it is makes a Zeldin victory improbable but not impossible. A recent Quinnipiac poll had Hochul up just four points in a race she led by 24 points as recently as August.

Clearly, it’s not too late for New Yorkers to break the stranglehold that Democrats have had over the Empire State for much of the past half-century.

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