Gubernatorial candidates look to November after big wins
With last week’s statewide primaries in the rearview mirror, Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Republican rival, Rep. Lee Zeldin, are gearing up for their head-to-head showdown in November.
While last month’s Supreme Court rulings on guns and abortion could impact the campaign and give the governor a political opening, election watchers predict it will be a close race in an already chaotic year. .
Shortly after his big primary victory, Hochul immediately tried to portray the upcoming general election as a referendum on the Supreme Court and what many New Yorkers see as a conservative move.
“Once again our rights are at stake,” Hochul said. “But what are we going to do about it? We are going to fight back. The rights and freedoms we got once before, we have to secure them again.”
But Hochul’s opponent, Zeldin, also has issues that people are worried about. He hopes to exploit fears of crime and the high cost of living to tip independent voters to his side.
“It’s not just a red wave,” Zeldin said in his primary victory speech. “It’s a wave of common sense. It’s a wave of common sense that is reaching everyone across this state.”
“I think the key question in this race in November will be, ‘Will the driving force be anti-incumbent due to frustration with inflation, the economy and the lingering pandemic, or the decisions of the Supreme Court on Guns and Abortion drive voters to the polls because they are so committed to gun reform and women’s right to make their own health choices? added Democratic strategist Eric Soufer.
For Republicans, this was shaping up to be their best statewide chance to win in years. Then abortion rights were overturned, changing the tenor of the race.
“I was very surprised that Congressman Zeldin sent a very, very strong pro-life statement the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe,” Republican strategist Tom Doherty said. “And I was a bit confused as to why he did that. That type of statement is definitely not going to help him in November.”
Hochul exceeded expectations in what turned out to be a primary with a very low turnout. She received more than 66% of the vote, which is a larger margin than her predecessor has achieved in any gubernatorial primary.
“Well, I think she had very weak opposition in the primary. Just underfunded opponents who didn’t have a clear rationale for why they deserve to be governor. Nonetheless, it sent a strong signal, certainly from the Republican side of the aisle,” Soufer said.
It was also a very bad evening for the progressive left. Most of the insurgent candidates lost their races. Some members of the group fear that it could create problems in November if a large part of the base is not powered up.
“Where will the progressive wing of the party be in November? The progressive wing of the party, they’re going to stay home. They stayed home on Hillary [Clinton]. And what did it bring them? Listen, stay home. If they stay home in record numbers, then Zeldin has a real chance of upsetting the incumbent governor,” Doherty said.
It is particularly unusual this year that the primaries have not even been completed.
Because the district cards were tossed out by a judge, the state’s Senate and Congressional primaries will take place next month.
That could lead to even more voter fatigue this fall.