Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin made their closing arguments to New Yorkers on Monday, seeking to energize voters on the eve of what is expected to be the state’s first competitive race for governor in more than a decade.
With Democratic turnout in New York City crucial to her victory, Hochul spent the day barnstorming through the city’s voter-rich neighborhoods with the goal of energizing supporters and convincing any last-minute hold-outs.
“When we win this election tomorrow, and that is when we win, I will come back and say this community has supported me more than any other,” Hochul told a crowd of Harlem residents at the Philip Randolph Senior Center on West 146th Street.
Already, 1.2 million New Yorkers have cast their ballots through early voting. More than 36% of those votes came from New York City, according to the city and state Board of Elections. Given the election is the state’s first midterm with early voting, political observers cautioned against reading into the turnout results too closely.
“We’ve got to bring it home,” she continued, before invoking the historic nature of her bid to become the state’s first woman elected governor. “We're gonna make history. Wait, not history, her-story.”
The short appearance capped off a busy morning for Hochul, who made a string of campaign stops on the Upper West Side. In a sign of how worried Democrats are about the contest, President Joe Biden traveled to Westchester County on Sunday to stump for the governor.
Zeldin spent his morning in the Bronx, one of several recent visits to the borough. At a press conference outside the Soundview subway station, Zeldin sought to blame Hochul and Democrats for rising crime and inflation – the twin themes of Republicans that have given the party a path to victory in the midterms.
The Long Island congressman, who is counting on performing well with suburban and rural voters in the state, said he believed he needed to win more than 30% of the city’s vote in order to win. He has highlighted early voting figures on Staten Island and Long Island as evidence of an impending red wave.
Not surprisingly, Zeldin, a Donald Trump supporter who Hochul has portrayed as an extremist, made a last-minute appeal to moderate Democrats. He was joined at the event by Ruben Diaz Sr., the controversial former Democratic lawmaker who is his top Latino surrogate in the city.
“New Yorkers are not monolithic,” Zeldin said, calling on voters to “forget the party labels.”
As he has on previous occasions, Zeldin invoked Mayor Eric Adams — a moderate Democrat — multiple times. The Democratic mayor has pressed for tighter restrictions on bail, a stance that has drawn the ire of left-leaning Democrats but which has made him a convenient ally for Republicans.
The Republican promised that should he win the race, his first call on Wednesday morning would be to Adams.
“And I'm gonna tell Mayor Adams that I wanna work with him to find common ground however possible to be able to save the Big Apple,” he said.
Later in the day, Zeldin was scheduled to go to Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, where he planned to speak to voters living on Staten Island, one of the city’s Republican strongholds.
Both sides sought to frame the early voting numbers as favorable to them.
“Just right here in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the early voting numbers are astounding,” Hochul said on Monday. “That is a very good barometer for us.”
Zeldin insisted his campaign had been about defying political conventions.
“This wasn't about Republicans versus Democrats,” he said. “This is about all of us everywhere participating in this process, and changing the course of our state.”