The race for the Governor’s Mansion intensified Monday as Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul blasted her GOP opponent Rep. Lee Zeldin for cozying up to ex-President Donald Trump, while Zeldin renewed his calls for Hochul to debate him at least five times prior to the Nov. 8 general election.
Hochul launched her broadside while taking questions from reporters at an unrelated press conference Tuesday, following reports Zeldin raked in $1.5 million at a New Jersey fundraiser held by the former president over the weekend.
“That’s just something he’ll have to explain to the voters of New York, that’s not going to go well,” Hochul told reporters at Penn Station. “People in New York understand our values and Donald Trump never has and never will represent them. And to the extent that my opponent wants to be so closely associated and rely on him for the resources, it’s troubling, but I guarantee it’s something the voters will be taking close note of.”
Throughout the campaign, Hochul has repeatedly hit Zeldin on his close ties to the former president. Particularly for his vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021, just hours after a mob of Trump loyalists stormed Capitol Hill – hoping to overturn the election in Trump’s favor.
On Tuesday, Hochul’s campaign launched a $2 million television ad buy attacking Zeldin on his Jan. 6 vote as well as his support of the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning national abortion rights.
While Hochul spoke at Penn Station, Zeldin held a news conference at his Manhattan campaign headquarters where he slammed Hochul for continuing not to answer his demand that she debate him five times – in media markets across the state – before the November election. The TV stations CBS New York and PIX11 have each offered to host and broadcast one debate
“We’re post-Labor Day and Kathy Hochul still hasn’t accepted any debate requests yet,” Zeldin told reporters. “What is Kathy Hochul so scared of? This is something that she should be enthusiastic about. This is the Democratic process. One where people who have their kids now going back to school, summer is winding down, they’re thinking about the Nov. 8 election, they have an important decision to make. They have to choose the direction of New York State, two very different paths.”
Zeldin drew a clear distinction between himself and Hochul, centering his campaign on combating high crime, cutting taxes and reversing Democratic policies like congestion pricing.
Although Hochul hasn’t yet committed to any debates with Zeldin, she made it clear Tuesday that she’s willing to face her opponent on the debate stage before the election.
“I’ve already said I’m willing to debate, I always debate,” Hochul said. “This is my fourteenth election, I actually look forward to debates. It’s going to happen.”
However, evidence is growing that Hochul, an unelected governor who took office after her predecessor Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace over a dozen sexual harassment allegations last year, may need to debate Zeldin in order to stay competitive in November. Over the weekend, a new poll from the Trafalgar Group found Hochul leading Zeldin by just 4 percent, in a race where she’s held a double digit lead over him at times.
“This latest poll shows that New Yorkers are starting to see who the real Kathy Hochul is – a corrupt, out-of-touch, weak Governor driving the state in the wrong direction,” Zeldin said in a release celebrating the poll.