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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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Zeldin’s Final Push

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Gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s path is coming to an end with one of two possibilities: one of the greatest political upsets in New York’s history or defeat. For the congressman representing much of eastern Long Island, there is no tangible middle ground on Election Day.

With most polls showing the gap between him and his opponent, Governor Kathy Hochul, closing – and even one poll by the Trafalgar Group showing him leading – both campaigns are firing on all cylinders. Hochul has been flooding the airwaves with ads linking Zeldin to Trump or to the far-right flank of his party, conjuring images of a politician out of step with the wishes of most New Yorkers. 

Notably, Hochul has pivoted to crime in these final days of the election.

Zeldin’s war chest is much smaller, but in his own capacity, he has continued to hammer crime and affordability as two of his major issues while assuring voters that Hochul’s characterizations of his stance on issues like abortion are inaccurate and misleading. He’s even earned the support of Times Square staple the ‘Naked Cowboy.’

Locally, Zeldin held two rallies with rising stars in the GOP. The first was a rally in Hauppauge this past Saturday with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose name is often mentioned as a future presidential candidate. The next rally was held on Tuesday as Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin attended an airplane hangar rally in Shirley. The latter governor was used as a blueprint for how Republicans could win governor’s mansions in blue states in the post-Trump era of the party.

Youngkin utilized education and COVID-19 lockdown measures, now linked to massive learning losses, to propel him to victory. COVID-19 measures taken by Hochul and a potential renewal of similar measures were contested points in the Zeldin-Hochul debate.

These two appearances by arguably two of the highest profile GOP governors in the country were preceded by a large interest in this race by The Republican Governor’s Association, which donated $500,000 to Zeldin-aligned PACs two weeks before the election.

In between the two Long Island rallies, Zeldin appeared throughout the region, most notably at another rally on Staten Island.

In the same time period, Hochul was crisscrossing New York City, looking to shore up support among the black and Latino communities, according to Politico. At these events, she appeared to be responding to statewide GOP messaging best summarized by Zeldin at a previous Westchester rally with Youngkin: “There is a crime emergency going on right now in this state, even though Kathy Hochul says ‘there is nothing to see here, look away.’”

In the most recent Emerson College Poll, which shows Hochul taking back the momentum, crime ranked as the third most important issue with 13% of respondents. Other top issues included the economy and “threats to democracy.”

These final days before the election on November 8 are so well watched that operatives from across the country are tuned in to see what it might mean for their own races.

With either the first elected female governor in New York’s history or the first Republican elected to the office in 20 years, it’ll certainly be a nail-biter.

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