New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top donors are sounding the alarm over GOP candidate Lee Zeldin’s surge

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top donors are sounding the alarm over GOP candidate Lee Zeldin’s surge

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Some of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top donors are privately panicking about Republican candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin’s recent poll surge ahead of Mediators on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter.

Republican, endorsed by the former president Donald Trumpin recent weeks, she has closed in on Hochul’s double-digit lead – prompting Hochul’s corporate backers to push her to change tactics, according to these people.

In early October, Hochul was ahead of Zeldin by an average of 14 points, according to FiveThirtyEight, which aggregates data from several polls. RealClearPolitics, which looked at several polls conducted during the last half of October, showed Zeldin close to Hochul, who was up six percentage points on average. A Quinnipiac a mid-October poll showed an even narrower lead for Hochul, who at the time was only four points ahead of Zeldin.

Many of the people who spoke about these conversations with Hochula did so on condition of anonymity so they could speak freely about private conversations. A spokesman for Hochul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Business leaders encouraged Hochul in private meetings, including one with top real estate executives in late October in New York, to move away from focusing on the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and other social issues. Instead, they advised her to show how she would fight inflation and the city’s recent rise in crime, people familiar with the talks said.

Other donors have tried to persuade her to fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who faces blame, often from Republicans, for the city’s rise in crime, the people said. Hochul suggested she has no plans to remove Bragg, a fellow Democrat, from office because she says he is a duly elected lawmaker.

As Zeldin has surged in the polls, buoyed by support from outside groups, Hochul herself has been calling on wealthy donors for additional contributions in recent weeks, some of these people said. Data from AdImpact shows that last week, Hochul and her allies spent just over $5.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads, while Zeldin and the groups supporting him poured in $8.3 million over the same time period.

New York businessman Bernard Schwartz gave just over $69,000 to Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign last year, according to state campaign finance records. He told CNBC he was concerned about Zeldin’s growing popularity, noting that others had privately encouraged Hochul to focus more on the economy. Although she made that change, he said he wasn’t sure it was enough to solidify her victory.

“I’m concerned,” Schwartz said when asked about Zeldin’s comeback in the polls. “She changed her strategy, but she was advised that the voter is most concerned about the economy and less about crime. I’m not so sure that the Democrats are projecting that message because the economy should be a strong point for the Democrats,” he said.

While inflation increased by 0.4% in September, nonfarm payrolls rose by 261,000 last month. The unemployment rate rose to 3.7%.

One Democratic consultant, who counts a number of Hochul donors as clients, said he has “PTSD” because he sees Zeldin closing in on Hochul in the polls. He compared Zeldin’s rush to TrumpDefeating Hillary Clinton in 2016

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the New York business lobby group Partnership for New York City, said Hochul is “too ambivalent about crime, other than gun control” for many business leaders.

The encouragement to focus more on the economy and crime as the polls tighten appears to have had an effect on Hochul’s messages. At a private Wall Street fundraiser last Tuesday, Hochul hit on those broad themes in front of more than 100 people in attendance, one attendee told CNBC. The dinner was held at Manhatta, a restaurant on the 60th floor Tower at 28 Liberty Street in the Financial District, this person said. Table tickets for the event raised up to $50,000, the attendee explained.

Another suggestion by Hochul donors was to fire Bragg as a way to show voters that he wants to fight crime within the state, some of these people said. Crime in the Big Apple is up 5.9% year over year, according to one October report by the NYPD.

Bragg has been criticized, often by GOP officials, for rising crime in New York. Bragg, a Democrat, was elected as Manhattan’s district attorney in 2021 for a four-year term. He led the investigation into Trump’s company, Trump Org., and plans to have former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to testify against his previous employer.

In an October debate between Hochul and Zeldin, the governor rejected the idea of ​​firing Bragg and suggested it was up to voters to decide his fate. Zeldin said at the debate that his first initiative if he becomes governor is to remove Bragg from office.

Hochul then told Zeldin “you can’t throw out someone who was duly elected”.

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