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Polls show New York governor's race is tightening

Hochul Zeldin photos.jpg
Ashley Hupfl
/
WAMC

New polls out Tuesday show the race for New York governor is tightening, with Republican candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin narrowing the gap between himself and Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Hochul replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a year ago, when Cuomo resigned over a sexual harassment scandal. She’s seeking election to a full term.

Hochul’s still ahead, but her support among likely New York voters has decreased, and backing for Zeldin has increased since the last time Siena College conducted a poll, said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“In the last three weeks, Rep. Zeldin has been able to close the gap against Gov. Hochul,” Greenberg said.

Last month’s Siena poll found Hochul leading by 17 points, at 54% to 37%. Now, Hochul is at 52% and Zeldin is at 41%, an 11-point lead.

The race is hard-fought, with Hochul highlighting Zeldin’s positions against abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the landmark abortion rights decision, Roe v. Wade. She is also focusing on Zeldin’s vote in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, against certifying the 2020 presidential election. Hochul said the Long Island congressman holds views too extreme to be elected governor.

Zeldin has focused on the higher crime rates in New York, blaming Hochul and Democrats in the State Legislature who passed criminal justice reforms, including ending most forms of cash bail.

He has attempted to downplay his stance against abortion, saying he would not change current New York law that codified the rights in Roe into state law.

Greenberg said right now, the wind seems to be with Zeldin.

While Hochul’s support among Democrats remains strong, at over 80%, Zeldin has solidified support from Republicans, and he has widened his lead among independent voters from 3% in September to 9% now. But Greenberg pointed out that the poll is a snapshot of a single point in time, and things could change in the three weeks until Election Day.

“There’s momentum on Zeldin’s side,” Greenberg said. “Like in sports, in politics, momentum is important. But like in sports, momentum can stop and can turn, depending on what’s going on around it.”

Both Hochul and Zeldin are not overconfident about their chances of winning, at least publicly.

Hochul said she’s running the race as though she’s the one who is behind.

“I always run like I'm an underdog,” Hochul said. “I'm a sports fan. Everybody knows that. You always run with that underdog mentality.”

Zeldin conceded that he is behind Hochul in the polls, but he said even if he were leading, he would not change how he views the race. He said he’s working harder than the governor to win votes.

“I’m out campaigning to earn the trust of voters,” Zeldin said. “Kathy Hochul is out trying to crawl across the finish line. She’s trying to survive this election.”

Hochul said she has been working hard.

“I have been taking my message all across the state, been governor just over a year, and people have had a chance to see the strength I have, the toughness that's required to govern this state,” said Hochul, who called Zeldin “extremely out of touch.”

A second poll released Tuesday, from Quinnipiac University, shows the race even closer, with Hochul at 50% to Zeldin’s 46%, and with crime as the No. 1 issue of concern to voters.

In response to the polls, a Hochul campaign spokesperson highlighted the governor's lead.

"Despite $8 million in outside spending from right-wing groups pushing baseless lies, Governor Hochul maintains a double-digit lead against her opponent," Jerrel Harvey said in a statement.

"We are confident in our ability to turn out voters in every community," Harvey added. "With just three weeks until Election Day, the governor isn't taking anything for granted and will continue to contrast her strong record of results with Lee Zeldin's MAGA agenda."

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.