In the final day before the gubernatorial election, both Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin were on the campaign trail Monday hammering home their closing arguments before voters head to the polls Tuesday.
Hochul was on the Upper West Side Monday morning pressing the flesh with some of the Democratic stronghold’s most prominent representatives such as U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, state Senator Brad Hoylman and City Council Member Gale Brewer. While taking questions from reporters, Hochul emphasized her electoral and New York bona fides as voters make final decisions on who to cast their ballots for Tuesday.
“I’ve known the state, I’ve represented a large part of the state in Congress,” Hochul said. “I’ve been an elected official for 30 years. I’ve been Lieutenant Governor since the 2014 Election, and took office in January 2015. I’ve had a longer residency than a lot of people here right now. And I’m proud of that.”
“I know this state, I know this city,” she continued. “I’ve been to all the communities. The diners, the restaurants, the community centers, the synagogues, churches, the temples. I have been everywhere. And that’s why I’ll be such a strong governor, because I understand the needs, because I hear from people directly. And we’re just getting started.”
The governor also defended her record on combating violent crime, especially on the city’s subways, as Zeldin continues to paint her as apathetic about the issue. Hochul characterized Zeldin’s laser focus on high profile crimes as “fear mongering” devoid of any real solutions for stopping the violent incidents. At the same time, she touted the steps she’s taken to reduce crime like a recent surge of both NYPD and State Police on the subways and installing security cameras on trains.
“He has been hyperventilating, trying to scare people for months,” Hochul said. “And New Yorkers are on to it. All the legitimate media organizations have called him out for what he is doing: fear mongering.
“We have been in the subways,” she added. “I stood there with Mayor [Eric] Adams just a few days ago talking about an intelligent plan, not just to scare people. I’m working on a real solution. The solution is the state, for the first time ever, is deploying state officers into the subways. We have cameras on the trains. We’re helping people with severe mental health problems, to get them off the train because they can do harm to themselves or others.”
The governor made the remarks following several days of holding rallies around the New York City metro area with some of the Democratic Party’s biggest stars including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Bill Clinton and his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The marathon of rallies represents a last push by the Hochul campaign to drive Democratic turnout in parts of the city that are crucial for winning her first full term as governor.
The party heavy-weights traveled to the Empire State to stump for Hochul in the final days of the election after several public polls last month showed Zeldin catching up to Hochul in what has become a much closer race than initially expected. Hochul also visited senior and community centers on the Upper West Side and in Harlem Monday, and is holding a pre-election rally in Buffalo in the evening, according to her public campaign schedule.
Meanwhile, Zeldin – a Suffolk County congress member – spent the final day on the trail before the election employing what has become a common tactic for his campaign: holding a press conference at the site of a high-profile crime to cast blame for the incident on Hochul and recent state criminal justice reforms.
This time, Zeldin was in the East Bronx where 52-year-old Jesus Cortez was sucker-punched in the back of the head in August – causing him to suffer a fractured skull. Zeldin said he chose the site because the alleged perpetrator Bui Van Phu – who’s on lifetime parole and is a convicted sex offender, according to a published report – was initially released under New York’s reformed cash bail system because Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark didn’t bring a bail eligible charge.
However, Phu was hit with second-degree assault charges last month and held on $100,000 bail after the case caused a stir.
Zeldin has been launching near-daily attacks on the bail laws – which were reformed in 2019 by the state legislature to eliminate cash bail for most misdemeanors and some non-violent felonies – over the course of the campaign cycle. He’s also lobbed constant attacks at progressive prosecutors like Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for choosing not to charge certain low-level crimes.
The congress member has said he would suspend the bail laws by declaring a “crime emergency” and remove Bragg from office on Day One.
Zeldin said the fatal flaw of Hochul’s campaign is that she underestimated how much New Yorkers, no matter their party, see public safety as the number one issue in the state.
“The issue that I hear about a lot from New Yorkers is that they care about wanting to be able to feel safer on the streets and on the subways,” Zeldin said. “If anyone’s trying to understand in advance why Kathy Hochul is going to lose this race tomorrow, if you need to just look at one thing, it’s that New Yorkers are not monolithic. You can’t just paint somebody who is a registered Democrat and say because they are a registered Democrat that that means they are just going to vote one particular way. That they don’t think for themselves. That they don’t have their own ideas, their own vision. And what they really want is to see action.”
As part of his closing message, Zeldin emphasized that he would be a governor who reaches across the aisle to work with Democrats, holding up Mayor Adams as an example.
“When I wake up the day after the election, [Wednesday] morning, the first thing I will do, as I mentioned earlier, is I’m gonna pick up the phone and I’m gonna call Mayor Adams,” Zeldin told reporters. “And I’m gonna tell Mayor Adams that I want to work with him to find common ground however possible to be able to save the Big Apple.”
“Every member of Congress, State Senate, state Assembly, City Council, it doesn’t matter,” he added. “Right, left, center, Republican, Democrat, Independent. This is about all of us expanding this coalition and working together.”