Kathy Hochul’s errant polls could launch her New York gubernatorial campaign

Kathy Hochul’s errant polls could launch her New York gubernatorial campaign

“When the Democrats come out, we win,” Hochul said Friday morning on CNN. “I think what you don’t see in the polls is that there is finally energy on the ground. It doesn’t manifest earlier, but you only need to peak on election day.”

Polls show Hochul leads between 4 and 11 points — a narrower-than-expected margin, with Democrats on edge. A recent internal poll of Hochul had her in the single digits, with less than 50 percent of the vote, according to a Democratic consultant familiar with the results.

Democrats are hoping the polls will serve as a wake-up call to their base — whose enrollment alone is smaller than Republicans and independents combined.

In another unusual twist for deep blue New York, the race for money has also intensified in the home stretch of the campaign. While Hochul has the overall fundraising lead, independent groups have pumped a whopping $20 million through two super PACs in recent weeks to help Zeldin, campaign finance records show.

As a result, ad spending is close, with Zeldin and his groups spending $9.3 million on ads as of Oct. 18 compared to $9 million by Hochul and her allies, according to AdImpact data. Most of the money was spent in the expensive media market of New York.

“The fact that the polls are tighter than anyone expected gives both parties a great opportunity and a great message to encourage their voters ‘It’s close, we could win. It’s close to where we could lose,” said Siena College poll spokesman Steven Greenberg, who has run several statewide Democratic races.

The race will come down to the regional benchmarks that have long been the recipe for New York elections: Republicans must win upstate, the suburbs and more than 30 percent of the vote in New York. Democrats need to pick up the score in a heavily blue city and then flip or come out slightly ahead in the rest of the state.

Zeldin acknowledged the winning balance, which hasn’t been achieved by a statewide Republican since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002.

“If you get less than 30 percent in New York, you can’t win,” Zeldin said in an interview last week. “If you get more than 35 percent in New York, it becomes very difficult to lose, depending on how north of 35 percent that number is.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs told reporters Tuesday that a competitive race will boost turnout and help Democrats, especially in the city.

“We have a strong outreach program across the state, and especially in the city,” he said.

But he also warned that Hochul could have trouble in the New York suburbs, including Zeldin’s Long Island territory, which has nearly 2.2 million voters — about 18 percent of the state’s total.

“We may be lacking in the suburbs, but we’re fighting hard for the suburbs,” said Jacobs, who is also the Democratic chairman of one of Long Island’s two counties.

Hochul, a native of Buffalo, will do better on his home turf in the upstate than other recent gubernatorial candidates, Jacobs predicted.

“She’s very well-liked, especially in Western New York, not just in her home district,” he said.

The battle for New York voters

Zeldin makes his way into the city, where the turnout is high he has supported Democrats across the state for generations. Polls show Hochul still dominates five boroughs, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than seven to one.

An Oct. 18 Quinnipiac University survey found her Zeldin leads 59 percent to 37 percent in the city, but beats him by just 4 points overall – one of the closest public polls. Siena College Survey released the same day showed her with a much better edge in the city: 70 percent to 23 percent and an overall victory of 11 points.

Both polls would have stunned Democrats four years ago, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated Republican challenger Marco Molinaro in the city 84 percent to 16 percent.

Zeldin is fighting on the margins, hoping to rally enough voters who are frustrated with the party in power over crime and inflation.

He campaigned in several city GOPs strongholds on Staten Island and in parts of Queens, while Hochul aims to activate a base in the Democratic bastions of Brooklyn and Manhattan that her supporters fear is unenthusiastic. She is planning a unity rally with former President Bill Clinton in Brooklyn, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerMayor Eric Adams and Attorney General Tish James on Saturday.

President Joe Biden is expected to join her in Yonkers on Sunday to try to shore up support in the suburbs. according to The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio show. It would be Biden’s third visit to New York from the beginning of October.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s about driving turnout and getting people to pay attention to this election — that it’s important; they are consequential,” said state Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), who heads the Bronx Democratic Caucus.

Republicans are showing “enthusiasm like we’ve never seen in four cycles,” says City Councilman Joe Borelli, whose Staten Island district is heavily Republican. He also works on the pro-Zeldin PAC.

Support for construction throughout New York

Borelli said Zeldin’s almost single-minded focus on crime appealed to voters concerned about safety in the city’s subways. He predicted that Asian and Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers would be taken up by his views on education issues.

Zeldin — who would be New York’s first Jewish Republican governor — said he would not interfere with yeshivas. Private religious academies have come under increased scrutiny amid allegations that many do not comply with state laws requiring adequate secular education. He also joined many Asian voters, many of whom support maintaining the entrance exam for the city’s specialized public high schools.

Orthodox Jewish areas of Brooklyn it turned out for former President Donald Trump two years ago.

“People in my community usually go to the current president unless there is a reason to do so, and in the case of Congressman Zeldin, he has come to our community multiple times in the last year. He’s a known quantity,” City Councilman Kalman Yeger, a conservative Democrat who has not officially endorsed the race, said in an interview.

Hochul has received the support of several prominent Jewish leaders, but Zelda seems to be the darling of the civically active community, based on recommendations.

Yeger said the excitement among Republicans in Orthodox Jewish areas like Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood has not been seen in two decades: “Borough Park neighborhoods are overwhelmingly and almost exclusively supporting Congressman Zeldin.”

City Councilwoman Diana Ayala, a Democrat who supports Hochul, said her constituents will vote for Hochul but are not excited about the race.

“I believe the governor will do well in parts of my district, in East Harlem and the South Bronx, but I know we’ve seen a trend over the last few years of having Latino voters who were registered Democrats switch party lines,” Ayala said in an interview.

Early voting numbers through Wednesday showed an increase on Long Island, a good sign for Zeldin, Newsday reported. Turnout is also expected to be strong in parts of the northern state where House races are being held.

The key for Hochul in the Upstate is overwhelmingly winning larger counties, such as Monroe, Onondaga, Albany and her home county of Erie – the most populous county in the Upstate. Suburban Westchester County, north of New York, is also key: Cuomo’s wins were boosted by strong wins in his former home state.

City Democratic consultant Jon Paul Lupo, who does not work for Hochul, said the governor is susceptible to national trends “outside her control” — such as a political shift to the right among some Latinos and white voters.

“I don’t think her personal excitement is an issue. The question is, do the Democrats in New York realize that this race is close enough to matter, and are they going to go and get out?” he said in an interview.

“In the last two weeks, we have seen more action by the Hochul campaign to achieve this.”

Anna Gronewold contributed to this report.

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