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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Tim Balk

Hochul leads Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin by 6 points in NY governor’s race, poll says

NEW YORK — Gov. Hochul led her Republican rival, Rep. Lee Zeldin, by 6 points in a SurveyUSA poll released Thursday, the latest signal that a governor’s race once seen as an afterthought in deep-blue New York has turned competitive in the final weeks.

The poll, which mirrored an average of recent surveys, marked a wide swing from SurveyUSA’s last poll of the governor’s race, which was conducted in August and showed Hochul leading Zeldin by 24 points. The new survey, conducted online between last Friday and Tuesday, showed a large gender gap: Hochul led by 16 points among women, but trailed by 12 points among men.

The new data points arrived two days after a pair of polls of the race emerged Tuesday, with Hochul up 11 points in a Siena College survey and 4 points in a Quinnipiac University poll. Democrats have won every New York governor’s race since 2006 by double-digit point margins.

But Zeldin, a 42-year-old Long Island lawmaker who is running on a public-safety focused platform, appears to be tapping into an anxious electorate frustrated by raging inflation and crime rates that continue to climb.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one statewide, and Zeldin has struggled to keep up with Hochul’s cash reserves, even joining former President Donald Trump — who is deeply unpopular in New York — for a September fund-raiser.

Trump endorsed Zeldin on Sunday, rewarding the congressman for years of loyalty. But Zeldin, who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election, hardly seemed to relish Trump’s imprimatur, telling reporters that the endorsement “shouldn’t have been news.”

If some New York voters are off-put by his links to Trump, it has not stopped Zeldin from picking up steam after trailing by around 20 points in multiple early polls of the contest. Election Day is Nov. 8.

A Real Clear Politics aggregation of recent surveys, calculated before the release of the SurveyUSA poll, showed Hochul leading Zeldin by an average of 6 points.

Democrats have cast doubt on the quality of recent surveys, questioning the samples that pollsters have used and emphasizing the challenges of public opinion polling in a partisan age.

“It’s a grumpy electorate in an unsettled mood,” Bruce Gyory, a Democratic political consultant, said Wednesday. “It’s fraught with danger to be certain of predictions. We don’t know where turnout is going to be, and we don’t really know what the final focus of swing voters is going to be.”

Across the nation, prospects for Republicans have brightened this fall, according to polls, as outrage over the conservative Supreme Court’s June ruling ending the right to abortion further in the rearview mirror.

Intense inflation appears to be boosting Republicans, who have blamed President Biden and Democrats in Congress for the state of the economy.

Hochul, a 64-year-old Democrat, took office when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned 14 months ago, and dominated in the Democratic primary. She is seeking to become the first woman elected governor of New York.

In the general election, she has touted her efforts to make New York a magnet for business and a sanctuary for those seeking reproductive health care. And she has highlighted Zeldin’s anti-abortion positions, opposition to gun control measures and fealty to Trump.

But Zeldin, drilling his public safety message in stops across New York City, has appeared to connect with swing voters.

Hochul has sharpened her criticism of Zeldin in recent days, perhaps in response to the tightening of the race. At a news conference on Tuesday, she suggested that Zeldin might be planning to “subvert the will of the people” by questioning the outcome of the governor’s race.

“This person cannot be trusted,” she said, “on democracy, on abortion, on guns.”

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