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Crime concerns power Rep. Lee Zeldin’s polling rise against Gov. Kathy Hochul

New polling backs up what Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin has argued for months: He is much closer to beating Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul this November than many people expect in solidly blue New York.

“We’ve consistently been gaining massive ground on Hochul as New Yorkers witness first hand her abysmal record on the issues more important to them — crime, the economy, corruption and more,” Zeldin crowed Tuesday after a Quinnipiac Poll showed him just 4 points behind Hochul, who had a 50% to 46% lead overall among likely voters.

The survey – which found crime and inflation were the top two issues for voters – is one of several in recent days highlighting how far Hochul has fallen.

Past surveys suggested weeks ago she was ahead by landslide margins as big as 24 points in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly two-to-one, but that has changed amid incessant attacks by Zeldin over bail reform and rising crime.

“The race is definitely tightening, which is not surprising given that neither candidate is exceptionally well known and people are making late decisions. And because the issues that Zeldin is focusing on are resonating more strongly,” Larry Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, told The Post.

Controversial decisions by the US Supreme Court affecting abortion rights and gun control initially pushed the political pendulum against Zeldin – but experts say that might be over.

A new Quinnipiac Poll shows GOP gubernatorial Rep. Lee Zeldin just four points behind Gov. Kathy Hochul.
A new Quinnipiac Poll shows GOP gubernatorial Rep. Lee Zeldin just four points behind Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“The bump the Democrats seemed to enjoy throughout the summer into the early fall based on severe anger of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, coupled with the string of Biden legislative victories, seems to now be receding vis-a-vis voters’ earlier frustration concerning the economy and crime — two issues which Republicans have traditionally enjoyed a polling advantage,” said Democratic political consultant Jake Dilemani.

Republicans say Hochul is blowing her chances at a full term in office by avoiding Zeldin’s attacks on the campaign trail while employing a Rose Garden strategy leveraging advantages as the sitting governor.

“It’s hard to understand why the Democrats in Albany have failed to recognize that crime is out of control and have not addressed it. People are afraid to go to work, take the subway or walk in the park,” former Gov. George Pataki said Tuesday. “Their unwillingness to address out of control crime has put Hochul and the Democrats in jeopardy.”

The poll found that rise in crime was a top issue for New York voters as well as inflation.
The poll found that the rise in crime was a top issue for New York voters, as well as inflation.
Wayne Carrington

This includes using state aircraft to travel around New York for official events like bill signings and press conferences that keep her name in the news amid ongoing fighting between her campaign and Zeldin’s about where and when they might debate each other.

“The governor can cut five ribbons a day between now and Election Day, but it still doesn’t address our crime or cost of living,” Joe Borelli, a spokesman for the pro-Zeldin Save Our NY State super PAC that has aired ads against her.

Tough numbers from Quinnipiac came hours after a poll conducted by Siena College show Hochul’s lead shrinking from 17 points to just 11 in recent weeks.

A Marist College poll released last week showed Zeldin behind by eight points with voters who definitely plan on casting ballots before the final day of voting Nov. 8.

Former Gov. George Pataki claimed that Democrats in Albany have not addressed out of control crime.
Former Gov. George Pataki claimed that Democrats in Albany have not addressed out of control crime.
Dennis A. Clark

“Despite $8 million in outside spending from right-wing groups pushing baseless lies, Gov. Hochul maintains a double-digit lead against her opponent. Even in today’s Quinnipiac poll, which substantially undercounted Democrats, Governor Hochul continues to receive support from fifty percent of New Yorkers and we are confident in our ability to turn out voters in every community,” Hochul campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said.

The tightening polls come as Zeldin and Hochul leaned on familiar talking points Tuesday on the campaign trail, with the Long Island pol blasting her stance on public safety following the Monday death of a man shoved onto a Queens subway track

“There is rising crime on our streets and in our subways. And people who are in charge right now in Albany actually feel like they haven’t passed enough pro-criminal laws,” Zeldin railed at a press conference outside the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue 74th Street station.

Hochul fired back from Manhattan by labeling him a “co-conspirator” in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol following revelations that Zeldin had offered advice on how former President Donald Trump could challenge the 2020 election results before voting even ended.

“I always run like I’m an underdog,” she told reporters in New York City after her campaign launched a fresh barrage of TV attacks on Zeldin over his ties to Trump, who formally backed he four-term congressman last week.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has had leads over Zeldin as big as 24 points in past polls.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has held leads over Zeldin as big as 24 points in previous polls.
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

The political winds still slightly favor Hochul over Zeldin given her advantages with fundraising and Democrats’ sheer numbers in New York City where the GOP challenger must reach 30% while winning big upstate and the suburbs in order to win statewide.

He had 37% support in the Quinnipiac poll compared to just 23% in the Siena survey, but experts project he is more likely under the threshold than above it.

The fact that key political players like unions have drifted away from the GOP in New York hardly helps Zeldin either, especially considering their habit of losing statewide races by hefty margins over the past two decades.

“There is no real political ground game or infrastructure in New York for the GOP,” Democratic political consultant Bradley Tusk told The Post.

But if she wants to hang on to her slim lead some political experts say that a change in campaign focus might be in order for Hochul considering the signs showing Zeldin gaining ground rapidly and Hochul’s own need to shore up support among Democratic voters to counterbalance his growing gains with independents.

“If I am Hochul, I would move on to exciting the base and not focusing on Jan. 6th. I am focusing on economy economy economy and abortion to get women out,” Democratic political consultant Camille Rivera said following the Quinnipiac Poll showing Zeldin within striking distance of Hochul.

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