Hochul is the candidate to beat in gov race, but Zeldin still has outside shot in November

Collage Maker-20-Jul-2022-01.30-PM
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (left) and Governor Kathy Hochul.
Photos courtesy of Zeldin and Hochul campaigns, illustrattion by Ethan Stark-Miller

Governor Kathy Hochul has a strong shot at winning her first full term in November but U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island) still has an outside chance of coming out on top in November, according to a political observer.

Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told PoliticsNY he believes Hochul is the candidate to beat in this race for the Governor’s Mansion because of her significant fundraising advantage and political prowess. Plus, Zeldin won’t be helped by his close ties to former President Donald Trump and his anti-abortion stance in a deeply blue state like New York.

But Zeldin could still pull off a win this fall, Sheinkopf said, if he can capitalize on voters’ concerns about high crime.

“He’s got not a great chance, but he has a chance,” Sheinkopf said. “Why? The issue is crime. Because New York’s a pro choice and is in no danger of not becoming a pro choice state. That’s not the question. The question is what do people in the suburbs of New York City and in portions of the city do? Are they fed up enough with Democrats to cast a vote for Lee Zeldin? That’s the issue.”

The governor has continued to receive endorsements from powerful labor unions and fellow electeds, while adding more funds to her ever-growing mountain of campaign cash. At the same time, Zeldin has repeatedly hammered her on allegations of corruption and being “soft on crime.”

On Tuesday, Hochul got the backing of the New York City District Council of Carpenters and the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, who together represent 30,000 members across the state, according to a release.

“The hardworking members of these carpenters unions have built and rebuilt New York for generations, and are now helping our state move forward,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “As the daughter of a proud union family, organized labor will always have an ally in me.”

Hochul, who stepped up to the state’s top job nearly a year ago after her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo resigned over numerous sexual misconduct allegations, has also raised an impressive amount of dough this election cycle.

After blowing out her opponents in last month’s primary with 60 percent of the vote, Hochul has continued to significantly outpace Zeldin in fundraising. Her campaign reported $11.7 million in its coffers in the latest campaign finance disclosure last Friday, according to a release. Hochul raked in $2 million over the past month, bringing her total amount raised this cycle to $34.7 million.

“With the campaign ramping up for the general election, Governor Hochul’s strong war chest demonstrates her widespread support and ability to build a winning coalition,” said Hochul campaign spokesperson Jen Goodman. “The campaign will continue to use its resources to show voters how Lee Zeldin’s dangerous, far-right agenda would put families and communities at risk, dragging our state backward.”

By comparison, Zeldin has just $1.57 million at his disposal and only raised $892,106 over the last month, according to a release from his campaign. The congressman has brought in $13 million overall this cycle, just a fraction of Hochul’s massive war chest.

The focus of Zeldin’s campaign strategy seems to be continually slamming Hochul for allegedly continuing the corrupt Albany practices that contributed to her predecessor’s downfall and for not doing enough to combat high crime across the state. Earlier this month, Zeldin told PoliticsNY he believes those factors will lead those who supported Hochul’s primary competitor U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island) to throw their support behind him in the general election.

Earlier this week the New York Post reported that Hochul has racked up over a $170,000 taxpayer funded bill for 140 private airplane and helicopter trips since taking office last year amid skyrocketing gas prices affecting everyday New Yorkers at the pump. In a statement Tuesday, Zeldin slammed Hochul for her frequent use of state aircraft and called on her to release details of “dates, routes and passengers” for the flights.

“Kathy Hochul views New Yorkers’ hard earned tax dollars as her own monopoly money so it’s no surprise she’s flippantly misusing state funded resources,” Zeldin said. “Hochul is out of control with her widespread abuse of state aircraft, which she apparently views as her wholly-subsidized Uber in the skies. It is imperative for Hochul to not only dial back her frequent use of state aircraft, but also release the full details of dates, routes, and passengers, regarding her past flights. Unlike Kathy Hochul, as Governor, I would be using state aircraft far far less than she does.”

At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Hochul defended her jet setting habits, telling reporters it was a “proper use” of state resources. She specifically defended trips to her hometown of Buffalo in response to a reporter’s question.

“Everything we do is proper use of state aircraft,” Hochul said. “Everything I do is cleared by ethics. It follows state policies that have been in place. And at the end of the, a governor is allowed to go home. Buffalo is my home.”

With additional reporting from amNewYork Metro reporter Kevin Duggan.