Hochul and Zeldin both take blows in lone debate over tighter gubernatorial race

“Nice to see you too, Lee,” joked Hochul when given his 60-second intro.

The event hosted by Spectrum News in New York comes as the Hochul juggernaut’s campaign pivots to highlight its public safety record to counter Zeldin’s aggressive messaging on the issue, a national trend that has even put seats sure Democrats in limbo before Nov. 8. gubernatorial elections across the United States and congressional scrutiny.

Polls showed Hochul’s lead was just four percentage points in a state that hasn’t elected a statewide Republican in 20 years.

Hochul, who had never before shown a desire to play an offensive role in debates, hammered Zeldin for votes in Congress on crime and gun control in which he did not participate, saying he was talking and not acting on the public safety issues propelling his campaign.

“He quit his job years ago to run for this one, and I feel for his constituents who haven’t been represented for a year and a half,” she said.

Hochul, who is seeking to be New York’s first elected female governor, also highlighted Zeldin’s close relationship with Donald Trump, a figure who remains unpopular in her home state – a theme Hochul has spent millions of dollars on ads for. bring voters into a state. with twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

His choice for a cross-examination question during the debate was direct: “Is Donald Trump a great president? This prompted Zeldin to list a number of initiatives he shared with Trump, including border control, US-Israel relations and anti-gang efforts.

“I’ll take that as a resounding yes, and New York voters disagree with you,” Hochul replied.

Zeldin, for his part, pointed to each of the criticisms Hochul has endured since taking office 14 months ago as then-governor. Andrew Cuomo has resigned in the scandal. He hit her for picking a lieutenant governor who quickly resigned amid federal corruption charges, for quietly cutting a deal to send millions of dollars in state funding to keep the Buffalo Bills in New York, for fighting to address the state’s crime problems and choosing to buy millions of dollars worth of state Covid-19 tests from campaign donor Digital Gadgets at a higher cost than other vendors.

And he pushed back on his focus on gun control as key to public safety.

“Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul thinks the only crimes that are being committed are those crimes with guns, but people who are afraid of being pushed past oncoming subway cars. They get stabbed, they get beaten to death with hammers… We have to talk about all these other crimes, but instead Kathy Hochul was too busy congratulating herself on ‘Job Well Done,’” Zeldin said.

His own plans for the state were more vague, but he said on his first day in office he would use executive power to remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg – an action that would likely take a long and substantial process. – and declare a crime. emergency.

Zeldin did not respond to Hochul’s criticism of her failed votes in Congress, or distance herself from Trump, except to say that is what she wants to focus on rather than fixing the state. The policies he has touted — including rejecting vaccination mandates and questioning the legitimacy of 2020 election results in some states — are ones that speak more to another right-wing conservative base as he also tries to woo the moderate and independent voters he would need to win.

The debate danced over a variety of issues, including economic development, opposing candidates on abortion and the New York migrant crisis fueled by GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott amid a tussle with the administration Biden on border policy.

Hochul said she is working with President Joe Biden and Mayor Eric Adams to find solutions to the influx, and is open to bipartisan immigration solutions.

“I don’t really think I could communicate rationally with the governor of Texas, but if y’all think I should make the call, I will,” she said.

Zeldin said if elected, he would call on the federal government to further secure the southern borders from drug and migrant influxes and to “stop inducing and rewarding illegal entry.”

Both candidates said they would support lifting the cap on charter schools, something Hochul had not previously committed to.

With mail-in voting set to begin on Saturday, the debate lacked viral moments that either campaign could clearly claim for an advantage, even as outside dollars flow to both candidates in the vital final days. Hochul heavily overspent and spent Zeldin, but was able to cover the airwaves thanks to roughly $12 million from PACs backing him, mostly from cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder.

During the whirlwind round of the debate, Hochul said she would like Biden to run for re-election, citing the infrastructure dollars the president sent to the state during his tenure. Zeldin, on the other hand, said he “didn’t even think about it” when asked if he would like Trump to run for president again in 2024.


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