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Hochul and Zeldin Trade Barbs with Competing Visions for NY State


Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin and Democrat Incumbent Kathy Hochul shared divergent takes on where New York is and where it ought to be. The debate was moderated by Spectrum NY1 News Political Anchor Errol Lewis and Spectrum News Anchor Susan Arbetter at Pace University.

It was the one and only debate.

Zeldin painted a bleak picture of a New York marred by crime and leading the nation in population loss, even going so far as to ask Hochul to finish the sentence “New York leads the nation in population loss because…”

Hochul was quick to link Zeldin to unpopular-in-the-state former President Trump, calling him an “election denier,” “climate change denier,” and “COVID denier.”

Between their colorful barbs, the two offered tangible policy differences in terms of economic development, public health, crime and accountability, among others.


Crime was the first item on the agenda, reflecting the importance in the polls and campaign rhetoric.

Zeldin doubled down on his stance that New York’s “cashless bail” and the HALT Act need to be repealed. He confirmed he would fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Briggs, who some accuse of taking a laissez faire approach to law enforcement. Zeldin based his assessment partly on Briggs’ decision to prosecute a shopkeeper who defended themselves from an attacker.

Hochul attacked this decision and defended her efforts to fight crime by getting 8,000 “guns off the street.” She also compared the decision to remove an elected official to his affiliation with Trump, noting that the process was more difficult than Zeldin made it to be.

Economic Development and Taxation

The issue of casino licensing, the Buffalo Bills subsidies and taxation came into play, often bleeding into the other categories.

When asked about the state’s $600 million in support for the Buffalo Bills, considering that the economic benefits are dubious, Hochul responded: “Every region has its own priorities, they have their own regional projects. This was important to make sure that the Buffalo Bills stayed in New York State. And they were looking elsewhere so we structured a plan. And if you look at just the salaries of the players, they do very well. The tax proceeds that we’ll receive from just the players alone after 20 years will more than pay for that investment.”

Zeldin doubted that the Bills were ever leaving, vowing to renegotiate the deal if elected.

No sooner did Governor Kathy Hochul decide to announce a major plan “to keep subways safe and address ongoing transit crime” than did gubernatorial candidate Representative Lee Zeldin lambast the policy as being “a half-ass, day late, dollar short plan…”

Zeldin, who has campaigned with a ‘tough on crime’ posture, accused Hochul’s plan of not being prompted by “25 year high subway crime” or “9 subways deaths” but a “bad poll.”

The governor’s office was not available via email or telephone.

The poll Zeldin is apparently referencing, which The Messenger’s Matt Meduri discussed on page 9, shows Zeldin +1. Other polls have shown the gap between the two narrowing, with Hochul ranging anywhere from +6 to +15 in four other recent polls.

The initiatives put forward by Hochul include an investment from the State’s public emergency fund and a commitment to work with the city on a dedicated revenue source to support additional police presence in the subway system. NYPD and MTA will surge officer presence on platforms by approximately 1,200 additional overtime officer shifts each day on the subway — equating to approximately 10,000 additional overtime patrol hours every day — as well as two new dedicated units at psychiatric centers to help provide

The issue of the Buffalo Bills stadium bled into the issue of casino licensing.

When asked if the state was moving too aggressively in opening new casinos, Zeldin responded by saying, “The answer is, possibly. New York is continuing to add casinos around the state. You’re seeing the impacts.”

Zeldin continued to say “For example, you want to talk fairness to Seneca Nation. The local share that gets taken out was based off of outdated times. They’ve now had all new casinos that have come in line.”

While Zeldin promised tax cuts if elected, Hochul demanded the answer as to what programs would be cut.


Zeldin also accused Hochul of “pay-to-play corruption” in the form of a no-bid contract during COVID-19 given to a Hochul campaign donor.

Hochul rejected the premise that there was pay-to-play corruption in the state, defending her decision as one of urgency in the midst of the Pandemic. Hochul said “We were hit harder than other states like California than didn’t deal with it until later.”

Public Health

When asked if she would “mandate a COVID vaccine for children, or no?”

Hochul responded “Not at this time.” She insisted the issue would be a legislative one anyway.

Zeldin seized the moment to emphasize a campaign point and stated, “Where my opponent just said she will not mandate COVID vaccines at this time, let me be clear to all of the parents who are out there – I will not mandate COVID vaccines for your kids ever.”

Hochul took advantage to press whether Zeldin’s stance stretched to other vaccines, which it did not appear to do.

What people are saying…

“If Gov. Kathy Hochul was going to give him only one debate, Rep. Lee Zeldin wasn’t going to waste a second making nice. The Republican challenger brought the fight

and focus that he has displayed on the campaign trail and scored a decisive victory Tuesday night.” – Michael Goodwin, The NY Post

“Representative Lee Zeldin painted a bleak portrait of New York, while Gov. Kathy Hochul stressed her rival’s anti- abortion stance and his support for Donald Trump.” – James Barron, The New York Times

Governor Kathy Hochul handily won tonight’s debate by showing that she will continue fighting hard to get results, create economic prosperity, and keep New Yorkers safe. Meanwhile, Lee Zeldin presented no serious plans or tackling the challenges New Yorkers face and was on the defense the entire night …” – Jay Jacobs, New York State and Nassau County Democratic Party chairman

“Congratulations to our own Lee Zeldin on his overwhelming victory in tonight’s NY gubernatorial debate! Tonight we saw why Kathy Hochul has been refusing to debate – she’s been hiding from her abysmal record! Lee outlined his plan to Save Our State by ending cashless bail and backing our police, rooting out the corruption in Albany, and reviving New York’s economy to combat inflation.” – Jesse Garcia, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Republican Party chairman

“Hochul was the clear winner. She’s running on her record while he’s running as an angry critic without any specific solutions. Her record and vision are stronger than his on public safety, infrastructure, environmental protections, safeguarding democracy, and reproductive healthcare.” – Eric Brengel, Hauppauge

“I thought that Lee was very articulate and addressed the real life concerns we have in this state: crime bail reform, inflation. While Hochul was very dismissive that there are problems with crime, Lee was effective in getting that message across.” – Shawn Hyms, Lake Ronkonkoma

“New York is at a crossroads, over the last 14 months of Governor Hochul’s brief tenure, we have seen crime skyrocket, pay-to-play corruption run rampant, and family bank accounts drained. There is no end in sight unless we elect Lee Zeldin as our next Governor.” – State Assemblyman Doug Smith, Holbrook

Brian R. Monahan
Brian R. Monahan
News Editor for The Messenger Papers.