Zeldin draws big crowd in front of Albany: ‘People are full of energy’

Zeldin draws big crowd in front of Albany: ‘People are full of energy’

While recent Republican campaigns for statewide office in New York have tended to stumble quietly toward the finish line, Zeldin surrounded his final message with fanfare ahead of Tuesday’s election against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul — who was in Manhattan at the same time holding a get-out-the-vote rally with Vice President Kamala Harris and former Senator Hillary Clinton.

Before they were joined by North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik and a long list of local Republican officials and seekers, Zeldin arrived by helicopter — a move last used at a political rally in the area in 2014 by then-rumored gubernatorial candidate Donald Trump, who instead decided to run for president less than two years later.

And like Trump, Zeldin took the size of the crowd as a sign of his momentum.

“You can pack every Kathy Hochul rally with every headliner … every one of them can be packed into tonight’s rally,” Zeldin said. “And we’ve seen that for several days in a row now. So much energy there, people are so ready to fire Kathy Hochul. People are energized to bring balance back to Albany.”

Regardless of whether attendance at the rally translates into a victory in a race where some 5 million people will vote, it was undeniably a well-attended event. Signs for Zeldin and Stefanik appeared every five feet on the mile-long roads leading to the golf course, and traffic was bumper-to-bumper in some places.

Polls have shown Zeldin trailing Hochula by between 4 and 11 points, as he addresses crime and the state’s high cost of living as key elements of his campaign. Hochul’s women’s rally on Thursday focused on preserving abortion rights, which she said would be threatened if Zeldin is elected — even though he has promised not to change them, while Hochul says he shouldn’t be trusted.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin estimated it was the largest statewide Republican rally attendance in the area since former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno last ran 16 years ago.

“Enough is enough,” said McLaughlin, a former state assemblyman. “Finally, this is the first big chance for people to stand up and push back.”

Recent polls have universally concluded that Hochul is at best on track for one of the lowest margins of victory for a New York Democrat in 20 years.

Zeldin compared the trend to that of the gubernatorial election 28 years ago, when Republican state Sen. George Pataki stunned Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994.

Pataki “sees flashbacks,” Zeldin said. “The last six public polls going into last week (for Pataki), four out of six have him down by double digits. . . . By all accounts, no one is projecting this to be a double digit loss.”

The course of the race included Zeldin “crawling to what was dead hot,” he said. “And the goal is to peak on Election Day, and that’s what we plan to do.”

“With all apologies to Prince,” Zeldin said, “I think New York is ready to party like it’s 1994.”

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