“We have a close election; there are close elections all over the country,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs. “In the House of Representatives, in the Senate and, yes, right here in New York State.”
Clinton sought to respond to some of the attacks coming from across the aisle: Inflation, he said, is on the rise around the world and is largely fueled by supply chain problems. ‘supply. The destabilizing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a mental health crisis and an increase in horrific headline-grabbing crimes. High gas prices are driven by geopolitical forces that will become moot once US refineries are back up and running. And bail reform is being unfairly used as a campaign cudgel by Zeldin and others on the right.
“Lee Zeldin, he looks like Kathy Hochul gets up every morning, walks to the nearest subway station, and hands out clubs [and] baseball bats,” said Clinton, the resident of Chappaqua, Westchester County.
Clinton ticked off a number of Hochul’s accomplishments since being sworn in as governor last summer following the resignation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he argued that Zeldin’s votes against major federal legislation, including the US bailout and the CHIPS and Science Act, showed he had no plan to address these issues if elected.
But despite the closeness of the contest days before polls close on Nov. 8, Clinton said New Yorkers he spoke to before the event were unaware of the dynamics.
“I’m telling you all of this because the whole election could come down to how big the turnout was in Brooklyn,” he said.
For his part, Zeldin held campaign rallies in the Hudson Valley on Saturday, culminating in an event with Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii who left the party last month and is in the election campaign for Republicans across the country.
Zeldin said Friday that polling for his campaign last week found the race was neck and neck, and, “We’ve just felt a growing momentum every day since.” We are going to win this race on Tuesday as long as we get our fans out.
New York has twice as many Democrats as Republicans, and no GOP candidate has won statewide in two decades. But Zeldin hammered home the state’s crime problems and high cost of living, making him the party’s most competitive candidate for governor since George Pataki retired after three terms in 2006.
“We are very concerned about safety on our streets, on our subways,” Zeldin said. “Republicans, Democrats and Independents have decided enough is enough. They are fed up with the pro-criminal laws that have been passed in Albany. You have weak district attorneys who refuse to enforce the law, and they want to support our men and women in law enforcement.
Much of the battle was fought in New York, where Zeldin hopes to win more than 30% of the vote then cruise through the suburbs and upstate. Hochul is pushing for strong Democratic turnout in the heavily blue city to boost turnout, win a full term and become the first elected female governor in New York’s history.
Hochul, as well as many of the speakers on Saturday, largely stuck to outlining an ominous future where the GOP and Zeldin are in charge, rather than detailing what another term under his leadership would look like.
She called the Republican Party extremists, deniers, white supremacists and opponents of abortion rights and seemed to acknowledge recent polls that had shown the race was far too close for many Democrats.
“I am a street fighter. I like to fight. And do you know what I love the most? she asked. “I like to be underestimated.”
With the election just days away, most voters have already decided who to support, according to political consultant Basil Smikle Jr., which is why Saturday’s rally seemed to be more about turnout.
“[Clinton] is still a very strong leader in the party and good on the stump. He has some kind of ground [Hochul] in the leadership of the party then and now,” said Smikle Jr. “On top of that, he is still very popular with a number of former African-American Democrats at a time when all black voters – the base of the base – must come out.”
The Hochul Campaign struggle resonate with black voters earlier in the cycle. And citywide elected officials who took office with the support of black communities, like Mayor Eric Adams or public attorney Jumaane Williams, have made few appearances on the campaign trail.
Adams — who recently toned down criticism that Albany’s inaction on bail reform contributes to crime — took the stage to praise his relationship with the governor.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re from Buffalo, NY or Buffalo Avenue in Brownsville,” he said of Hochul, who is originally from Buffalo. “You have a genuine governor who is committed to uplifting the people of this city and this state.”