The Crime Issue Is Driving the NY Governor's Race and the GOP Is Benefiting

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

New York State hasn’t had a Republican governor in 20 years and because of New York City’s skyrocketing crime rate, that might change in 2022.

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is poaching traditional Democratic voters in the Big Apple who are fearful of the rising crime rate. Some polls indicate incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul is trailing among independents by double digits. And Zeldin’s support in the city is twice that of previous Republican candidates.

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There are red flags for the Democrats all over the map. In one poll, Zeldin has a double-digit lead among Hispanics — 54%-36%.

New York Post:

Hochul led in Democrat-dominated New York City only 53% to 36% in the co/efficient survey, which is the latest one where Zeldin has cleared a key hurdle in his race to become the first Republican to win statewide since ex-Gov. George Pataki 20 years ago.

Republican strategists have said a GOP candidate needs to clear the 30% threshold in New York City to win statewide — along with carrying the suburbs and upstate. Zeldin also captured more than a third of the city’s support in the Quinnipiac College poll released Tuesday.

Zeldin led by 14 points – 56% to 42% – on his Long Island turf, and was ahead by 19 points in the Hudson Valley and 11 points in the Albany region.

They were splitting other parts of upstate. In her native Buffalo region, Hochul was up by two points, 47% to 45% while Zeldin was up three points in the Central NY/Syracuse region,  47% to 44%.

Even if that co/efficient poll is an outlier, there are plenty of other markers that should give abundant encouragement to Zeldin supporters.

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“The race has been tightening over the last few weeks and it appears that it is now a dead heat. The shift has been led by predominantly white and Hispanic registered Democrats defecting to support Zeldin, the Republican candidate,” co/efficient pollster Ryan Munce said.

Zeldin has been hammering Hochul on the crime issue mercilessly. When a man was pushed in front of a subway train on Monday in Queens, Zeldin showed up on the platform the next day, repeating the refrain from his campaign: Crime in New York is out of control, and he will roll back criminal-justice overhauls enacted by the state’s ruling Democrats.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Zeldin is spending 60% of his weekly advertising budget in the city, which has 43% of New York state’s population and accounted for 32% of the votes cast in 2018.

Wall Street Journal:

“He is spending much more time than either Rob Astorino or Marc Molinaro did in New York City,” said GOP consultant Chapin Fay, referring to the Republican gubernatorial candidates who lost in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

To win, Mr. Zeldin would need to capture more than 30% of the vote in New York City while carrying suburban counties—including on Long Island—and upstate New York by large margins, political consultant Bruce Gyory said.

Recent polls have shown his support in the city between 23% and 39%. Messrs. Astorino and Molinaro won less than 20% of the vote in the city. Both men lost elections to former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned last year amid a sexual-harassment scandal and was succeeded by Ms. Hochul, then the lieutenant governor. Mr. Trump won 23% of the city vote in 2020.

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There are still 17 days to go until the election. But Hochul is now in an unfamiliar position for a Democrat in New York state: trailing among key Democratic constituencies with dwindling opportunities to change anyone’s mind.

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