Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) survived her first election as governor of the Empire State on Tuesday night, besting GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY) in a race that continued to tighten against the Democrat’s favor, according to a projection from DecisionDeskHQ.
Though it looked like 64-year-old Hochul would have an easy ride to victory as the incumbent Democrat, concerns over rising crime and sky-high inflation moved the race to a toss-up in recent weeks.
Notably, Hochul was not a traditional incumbent — she wasn’t elected to the position of governor, but took over for disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo after a sexual misconduct scandal led to his ouster in August 2021.
Zeldin, 42, during the campaign routinely highlighted what he called failed Democratic policies responsible for the raging crime wave in the state, specifically in New York City. The tactic seemed to tighten the polls in his favor, despite Hochul’s focus on social issues like abortion.
One of the early moments that seemed to contrast the pair on crime policies was in July, when Zeldin was attacked by a blade-wielding man during a campaign stop in Rochester. The attacker, identified as 43-year-old David G. Jakubonis, was released mere hours after his arrest.
“After being charged with a felony for last night’s attack, the man who tried to stab me was instantly released back onto the street due to New York’s insane cashless bail law. We MUST repeal cashless bail in New York!” Zeldin tweeted at the time, captioning a photo of the thwarted attack.
Jakubonis was arrested days later on a federal assault charge.
After being charged with a felony for last night’s attack, the man who tried to stab me was instantly released back onto the street due to New York’s insane cashless bail law. We MUST repeal cashless bail in New York! pic.twitter.com/7pMpulaOoJ
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) July 22, 2022
And in October, a shooting broke out outside the Zeldin family home while his two twin daughters were inside by themselves, hiding in a bathroom until the gunfire ceased.
“We cannot surrender any street anywhere in the state of New York to criminals,” the gubernatorial hopeful said following the shooting. “I want to see our law enforcement in charge of all of New York’s streets.”
Zeldin hit the same tough-on-crime note during the pair’s debate, while Hochul zeroed-in on gun laws, despite the state having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
“Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes being committed are crimes with guns; you have people who are afraid to be pushed in front of oncoming subway cars, they’re being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers,” Zeldin said.
“Talk to the Asian American community and how it’s impacted them with the loss of lives, Jewish people targeted with raw, violent anti-Semitism on our streets — it just happened yet again,” the Republican continued. “We need to be talking about all of these other crimes, but instead, Kathy Hochul is busy patting herself on the back, job well done. No, actually.”
“Right now,” Zeldin said, “there should be a special session” to “overhaul cashless bail and these other pro-criminal laws with zero tolerance.”
NY Gov. Kathy Hochul's plan to address the spike in violent crime? More gun control.
Congressman Lee Zeldin has other ideas. pic.twitter.com/QlJ0T4Uz2F
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 25, 2022
Hochul during the debate painted Zeldin as too conservative for deep-Blue New York, specifically when it comes to abortion.
“You’re the only person standing on this stage whose name right now — not years past — that right now, is on a bill called ‘Life Begins at Conception,’” Hochul said of Zeldin.
“That is a frightening spectacle,” the Democrat added. “Women need to know that that’s on the ballot this November as well.”
Hochul refused during the debate to name a single restriction on abortion she would support. Notably, abortion is legal is some cases until the moment of birth in the Empire State.
The incumbent also refused to move on her harsh stance concerning COVID vaccine mandates, telling fired unvaccinated New Yorker health care workers she’d “do it again” with regard to the vax mandate.