New York Governor’s Debate 2022: 4 takeaways from the Hochul and Zeldin debate


New York Governor Kathy Hochul squared off against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Tuesday in their first and only pre-election debate, delivering a tense and tense series of exchanges on crime, abortion rights, the presidential election of 2020 and the ethics of campaign finance.

Their head-to-head came as recent polls show a tight race, with the Democrat’s lead shrinking to single digits in a survey. No Republican has been elected in New York since 2002.

Zeldin, a conservative backed by former President Donald Trump, campaigned furiously against his opposition to the state’s bail reform law and criticized Hochul’s handling of crime, which ranked tops the list of voter concerns in almost every survey of the race.

Both candidates sought to align themselves with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who has pushed for substantial new bail law reversals, but they predictably diverged. about Trump and his successor, President Joe Biden.

Zeldin praised Trump’s political agenda during the debate, but, in a nod to a state that voted overwhelmingly for his opponent, did not directly say whether the former president should stand. represent in 2024.

Hochul, breaking with some lukewarm statements from fellow Democrats, was clear and concise about Biden’s future. When asked if she thought he should race again, she replied, “Yes, I do.”

Here are the four big takeaways from Tuesday night’s debate.

Crime became the central talking point of the election and dominated much of Tuesday’s debate, with Zeldin criticizing Hochul for not taking more aggressive action to tackle its rise and vowing to fire a controversial Democratic prosecutor in Manhattan.

Hochul responded by talking about various initiatives, but also frequently tried to flip the tide on the Republican, emphasizing his opposition to gun control measures, including a bipartisan agreement recently passed in Congress.

“I’m running to take back our streets,” Zeldin said during the first end of the debate.

Hochul dismissed his opponent’s attacks as vague and cynical.

“You can work to keep people scared or to keep them safe,” she said, adding, “There’s no crime-fighting plan if it doesn’t include guns. “.

Zeldin sought to deflect the gun argument by noting that guns have played no role in many recent hate crimes or when innocent bystanders have, in recent months, been pushed onto subway tracks.

“They tell me these stories,” Zeldin said of voters he’s met, “of having to hug a pole or grab a railing because they’re afraid of being pushed past a car. oncoming subway.”

“All you have is rhetoric,” Hochul retorted. “I have a record of getting things done.”

The state bail reform law, passed in 2019 but twice since reversed, was also a flashpoint. Even after moderators released statistics showing it’s hard to discern whether the law, which makes it harder to hold suspects in pretrial detention, has led to an increase in crime, the two contestants – Zeldin in a far more great extent – spoke of their desire for further changes.

Hochul has, before and during the campaign, sought further adjustments. Zeldin wants the legislation scrapped entirely — a desire in line with even some liberal New Yorkers — calling it “the will of the people.”

In a state Biden won by nearly 2 million votes, with more than 60% of votes cast, Zeldin’s vote in Congress against election certification has become a reliable cudgel for Democrats.

On Tuesday nights, Hochul used it early and often.

When Zeldin talked about trying to impeach Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who was elected to the position, Hochul linked him to the congressman’s actions after the 2020 presidential election.

“In Lee Zeldin’s world,” she said, “you cancel elections you don’t agree with.”

Zeldin said he had the “constitutional authority” and “constitutional duty” to do his best to overthrow Bragg, who has been criticized for not prosecuting low-level crimes more aggressively.

Eventually, the moderators offered Zeldin some kind of opportunity to disavow his past actions. When asked if he would, knowing what he’s doing now, still vote against certifying the 2020 election, Zeldin hesitated.

“The problem still remains today,” the Republican said. “Election integrity should always matter.”

Pressed then whether he would accept defeat, if Hochul won in two weeks, Zeldin said he would – but his disdain for the question was evident.

“First of all, losing is not an option,” Zeldin replied. “Second, play with your hypothetical question: of course, he would accept the results, he said.

The Republican has also come under constant attack for his views on anti-abortion policy and celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Zeldin argued that the question was moot: New York State has strict abortion rights protections in place, and even if it wanted to, it couldn’t change them.

Still, he didn’t respond directly to a question from moderators asking if he would approve of new restrictions if Republicans seized the state legislature — something Zeldin insisted he was. irrelevant because “it doesn’t happen”.

Hochul returned to the issue frequently, touting the state law and promising to protect it from conservative politicians like Zeldin.

“What we have in New York State is just a codification of Roe v. Wade,” Hochul said, when asked if she would impose abortion restrictions. She then added: “Do you know why nothing changed the day after the Dobbs decision? It’s because I’m the governor of New York and he’s not.

Zeldin also sought to answer questions about a recent remark, which he has since backtracked, saying he wants to appoint a state health commissioner against abortion rights.

“My litmus test,” he insisted, “is that (the health commissioner) is going to do an outstanding job.”

Again though, on the question of whether he would support funding for Planned Parenthood, Zeldin swerved and suggested it would be a bargaining chip with the Albany Democratic leadership.

“I’ve heard from New Yorkers that they don’t want their tax money, for example, for people who live 1,500 miles from here,” Zeldin said.

The Bills have one of the best records in professional football this year, but Zeldin hopes they could be a losing problem for Hochul, at least outside of Buffalo.

The state this year approved $600 million in funds to build the team, which is owned by a billionaire, a new stadium in Buffalo. The county is also contributing about $250 million.

Hochul defended what critics call a corporate document as a job-creating gambit — an argument belied by past experiences of other cities doing the same — and claimed the bills were “looking elsewhere” or were considering moving to another city, and said she would. heard from people that they had been in contact with officials in other states.

“You think about community identity — like Broadway is in New York, the Buffalo Bills are in Western New York,” said Hochul, a Buffalo native.

Zeldin became exasperated at the suggestion that the Bills were seriously considering leaving town — “They’re not,” he said dryly — and said the eleventh-hour deal to get the silver was “irresponsible in substance and process”.

Throughout the debate, Zeldin also criticized what he described as Hochul’s ‘pay to play’ governorship, accusing him of trading state contract money for campaign donations. .

Hochul denied the accusation, which was reported inconclusively by a number of local media outlets.

“There was never a quid pro quo, a change in policy, because of a contribution,” the governor said, before moving into an attack on Zeldin’s outside support, particularly the more than 8 million dollars invested in pro-Zeldin super PACs by Ronald Lauder. , heir to cosmetics giant Estée Lauder.

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