early and often

Lee Zeldin Gains on Kathy Hochul and May Be Cutting Into Her Base

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

During a midterm election cycle that has seen each party swap fortunes at least once, the New York governor’s race has been rather boring. Incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul has maintained a wide lead over Republican congressman Lee Zeldin as she seeks her first full term. On Tuesday, though, two new polls suggested something of a shake-up.

A Siena College poll showed Hochul leading Zeldin by 11 points, 52 to 41 percent, down from her 17-point lead in September. Hours later, a Quinnipiac University poll also of likely voters showed Hochul with just a four-point lead over Zeldin, who is vying to become the first Republican elected to statewide office in 20 years. Both surveys have Zeldin leading upstate and in the suburbs, but they differ in how well he’s doing in the Democratic stronghold of New York City.

Siena shows 23 percent for Zeldin in the city, but Quinnipiac puts him at 37 percent. It’s an important difference: Zeldin’s campaign has said he could win if he gets 30 percent support from the city. By comparison, Republican Curtis Sliwa won 27 percent in his bid for mayor last year.

Either way, Zeldin has gained on Hochul across New York potentially thanks to concerns about crime: 28 percent of voters in the Quinnipiac poll called it their most important election issue, followed by inflation at 20 percent and protecting democracy at 14 percent. Zeldin has taken every opportunity to link the governor to crime, such as a September ad showing violent footage with the narration “You’re looking at actual violent crimes caught on-camera in Kathy Hochul’s New York, and it’s getting much worse on Kathy Hochul’s watch.”

If elected, Zeldin has said he would declare a state of emergency on crime as his first act as governor and would seek to overturn changes made to the state’s bail laws, including cashless bail. Though largely supportive of bail reform, Hochul backed changes made to the laws in April in the lead-up to the Democratic primary, in which she was attacked from the right on the issue. The governor has also championed gun-control measures, signing a series of bills into law that placed limits on concealed carry and raised the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

In a statement, Hochul’s campaign brushed off the polls, saying she holds a sizable lead over Zeldin “despite $8 million in outside spending from right-wing groups pushing baseless lies.”

“Even in today’s Quinnipiac poll, which substantially undercounted Democrats, Governor Hochul continues to receive support from 50 percent of New Yorkers, and we are confident in our ability to turn out voters in every community,” it read. “With just three weeks until Election Day, the governor isn’t taking anything for granted and will continue to contrast her strong record of results with Lee Zeldin’s MAGA agenda.”

In a statement, Zeldin said his campaign has been gaining momentum on Hochul consistently and called her record “abysmal.”

“The polls have continued to show that our message is resonating,” the statement read, “and on Tuesday, November 8th, New York voters are going to elect a new Governor to Save Our State and restore New York to glory.”

Lee Zeldin Gains on Kathy Hochul in New Polls