Sparring over crime, abortion and the deadly US Capitol insurrection took center stage Tuesday as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul faced her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, in the campaign’s only televised gubernatorial debate.
Hochul blasted Zeldin’s past support for abortion restrictions and for former President Donald Trump, while Zeldin vowed to repeal liberal criminal justice reforms and criticized Hochul’s push to send millions to abortion providers to expand access for a predicted surge in out-of-state patients.
Hochul labeled Zeldin an “election denier” and “climate change denier” as she tried to link him to Trump, who enjoyed little support in New York.
“In Lee Zeldin’s world, you overthrow the results of elections you don’t agree with,” Hochul said.
Zeldin voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Trump’s false claims of 2020 presidential election fraud transformed into marching orders that summoned supporters to Washington, DC, and they then stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to violently block Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
When asked by a debate moderator if he would vote against certifying the results again, Zeldin didn’t directly say yes or no. He instead said he wanted to focus on the future, and fight to institute voter ID laws to protect election integrity.
Hochul also asked Zeldin: “Is Donald Trump a great president? Yes or no?”
Zeldin praised Trump’s record on policies from Israel to the US-border policy to pandemic containment. And when a moderator asked Zeldin if he would accept the results of the election if he lost, Zeldin said: “Well, first off, losing is not an option. Secondly, playing along with your hypothetical question, of course.”
Hochul, the state’s former lieutenant governor who took office after her successor resigned to avoid a likely impeachment, has enjoyed a strong lead over Zeldin in much of the polling this year. But Zeldin remains a contender, enjoying support in wide swaths of upstate New York . Some recent polling suggests the gap between the candidates could be narrowing.
There’s less than 3 weeks until election day, and Republican candidate Lee Zeldin and Governor Kathy Hochul remain close in the polls, Melissa Russo reports.
The Long Island Republican has spent much of the year railing against a streak of shootings and other violent crimes, including a series of unprovoked attacks on New York City subways. Two teenagers were also injured in a drive-by shooting outside his home earlier this month.
“This is our opportunity. Two weeks from tonight, we can continue with the status quo, where they believe they haven’t passed enough pro-criminal laws,” Zeldin said. “Or we can take control of our destiny and make sure law -abiding New Yorkers are in charge of our streets again.”
Zeldin on Tuesday charged Hochul with failing to take seriously the concerns of New Yorkers about crimes on subways and hate crimes against Jewish and Asian-American communities. He also argued that liberal opposition to natural gas extraction and new pipelines in New York is hurting the state’s economy.
“You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies,” Zeldin said, not wasting a minute during his only chance to confront Hochul, adding: “You deserve better.”
New York was among the first states to scale back the use of cash bail for criminal defendants starting in 2020. Both before and after the reforms, only a small fraction of the people released while awaiting trial — less than 1% — were re-arrested for violent felonies.
“First of all, you can either work on keeping people scared, or you can work on keeping them safe…I did focus on bail reform in our budget. That’s why the budget was nine days late, because I insisted on common sense changes,” Hochul said.
NBC 4’s Melissa Russo sat down with Republican Candidate for New York Governor Lee Zeldin to discuss topics of interest in the upcoming election.
Hochul has noted that other cities and states without similar cash bail laws have seen spikes of crime since 2020. The governor also took aim at Zeldin’s refusal to support gun control measures in Congress.
“It is a joke to talk about a crime policy that doesn’t talk about doing something about illegal guns,” Hochul said. “When you had the chance to say enough is enough, no more school massacres or teenagers, you were nowhere to be found, Lee.”
As for abortion, Zeldin used the debate to repeat his carefully worded promise that he will not try to change the state’s abortion laws after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Wade in the Dobbs decision.
“The day after the Dobbs decision, the law in New York was exactly the same as it was the day before, and I’m not going to change that,” Zeldin said.
Hochul warned New Yorkers not to trust that stance.
“Lee, you can’t run from your record,” she said. “You know why nothing changed after the Dobbs decision? Because I’m the governor, and he’s not.”