While recent Republican campaigns for statewide office in New York have tended to stumble quietly toward the finish line, Zeldin surrounded his closing message with fanfare ahead of Tuesday’s election. against Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul – who was at the same time in Manhattan organizing a rally to get the vote with Vice President Kamala Harris and former Senator Hillary Clinton.
Before being joined by North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik and a long list of local Republican officials and candidates, Zeldin arrived by helicopter – a decision last used at a political rally in the area in 2014 by a then long-rumored gubernatorial candidate named Donald Trump, who instead opted to run for president less than two years later.
And like Trump, Zeldin took the size of the crowd as a sign of his momentum.
“You can pack every Kathy Hochul rally with every headliner…every one of them can be packed into tonight’s rally,” Zeldin said. “And we have now seen this for several days in a row. So much energy there, people are so ready to fire Kathy Hochul. People are motivated to restore balance to Albany.
Whether or not attendance at a rally results in victory in a race in which around 5 million people will vote, it is unquestionably a well-attended event. Signs for Zeldin and Stefanik appeared every five feet on the roads for a full mile leading to the golf course, and traffic was bumper-to-bumper at some points.
Polls have shown Zeldin trailing Hochul by 4-11 points as he tackles crime and the state’s high cost of living as key elements of his campaign. Hochul’s women’s rally on Thursday focused on preserving abortion rights, which she said would be in jeopardy if Zeldin is elected – although he has vowed not to change them, while Hochul says that should not be believed.
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin estimated it was the largest rally turnout for a state-level Republican in the area since the former majority leader’s last run. in the Senate, Joe Bruno, 16 years ago.
“That’s enough,” said McLaughlin, a former state assemblyman. “Finally, this is the first big chance for people to stand up and push back.”
Recent polls have universally concluded that, at best, Hochul is on course for one of the narrowest winning margins by a New York Democrat in 20 years.
Zeldin likened the trend to that of the gubernatorial election 28 years ago, when Republican Senator George Pataki stunned Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo in 1994.
Pataki “sees flashbacks,” Zeldin said. “The last six public polls last week (for Pataki), four of the six have it down double digits… By all accounts, no one believes it’s going to be a double digit loss.”
The course of the race involved Zeldin “approaching what has been a dead end,” he said. “And the goal is for you to peak on Election Day, and that’s what we plan to do.”
“Apologies to Prince,” Zeldin said, “I think New York is ready to party like it’s 1994.”