New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin clashed on Tuesday night in a fiery debate ahead of gubernatorial election day. The tense encounter – in what polling data indicates is a tight race – included Governor Hochul pressing Zeldin on his views of Donald Trump. The former president is expected to divide the opinion of voters in his home state.
Zeldin has long-supported Trump, including his efforts to overturn the 2020 election alongside 147 House Republicans.
Zeldin attacked Hochul on crime, describing New York as “in crisis” while placing blame on policies she has introduced – such as eliminating cash bail for non-violent felonies and most misdemeanors.
The GOP candidate has strengthened his campaign by also emphasising the increase in violent crime, from shootings to unprovoked attacks in the New York City subway.
A poll by Quinnipiac University, released on October 18, suggests Hochul maintains a slight edge of four points over her opponent (50 – 46 percent) – but New York State hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 2002.
Separate data from polling by Reuters/Ipsos, for late September to late October, indicates the economy is the biggest concern to voters, though five percent ranked crime or corruption as the most important problem.
During the debate on Spectrum News, Hochul asked: “Is Donald Trump a great president?”
To which Zeldin replied: “I worked closely with him on a number of important policies.”
Hochul then responded: “Yes or no, yes or no.”
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Zeldin was unhurt in the incident.
In an unrelated incident earlier in October, police were called to a shooting outside his home in Long Island.
The shooting had no connection to his family, who were uninjured, police said.
Bringing crime to centre of Tuesday night’s debate, he told Hochul: “We need to make our streets safe again.
“I’m running to take back our streets, and to support, unapologetically, our men and women in law enforcement.”
The pair then clashed on different weapons used across the state, with Hochul accusing Zeldin of trying to keep New Yorkers “scared” about crime.
She pointed to the need for stricter gun control measures, referring to Monday’s school shooting in St Louis.
Zeldin hit back: “Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes that are being committed are these crimes with guns.
“And you have people who are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars. They’re being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers.”
Hochul is the state’s former lieutenant governor. She who took office last year after Governor Andrew Cuomo, making her New York’s first female governor.