OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The campaign for New York governor has gotten far closer than anyone had predicted, as it has gotten to be neck and neck.
In a liberal state like New York many predicted that Democrat Kathy Hochul would have a commanding lead on her Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, but it is now a “toss-up,” according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Fox News reported.
The average comes from polls that were conducted between from Sept. 30 to Oct. 12 and show the current governor, who replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, holding a lead of 5.3% with 7% of voters undecided.
“We have just 24 days to go until we FIRE @KathyHochul & save our state. It’s not too late for Hochul to come out of hiding & do multiple debates with me across New York, starting immediately!” the Republican said on Twitter.
🚨Our race was just moved to TOSS UP by @RealClearNews! We have just 24 days to go until we FIRE @KathyHochul & save our state. It’s not too late for Hochul to come out of hiding & do multiple debates with me across New York, starting immediately! pic.twitter.com/eYrm1TUYnD
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) October 15, 2022
The shift in polls amounts to a significant comeback for Zeldin, who was down in the polls as much as 24 points in August.
“It’s a very competitive race,” pollster Doug Schoen told The New York Post on Friday.
Recent polling from Marist University showed that while Hochul has a lead over Zeldin, independent voters support Zeldin 49% to 35%, with rising crime resonating with more and more voters, especially in New York City.
“Although Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate lead in very blue New York, the race for governor still bears watching,” Marist Institute for Public Opinion director Lee M. Miringoff said. “Republicans say they are more likely to vote, enthusiasm for Zeldin among his supporters exceeds Hochul’s, and any shift to crime in the closing weeks is likely to benefit Zeldin.”
“I’m not in this race to come in second. I’m all-in. I’m over 18 months into this race, campaigning all throughout this entire state,” the Republican said. “One of the reasons why I got into the race was because of these pro-criminal laws that have been getting passed out of Albany.”
According to the New York Post, former President Donald Trump helped Zeldin raise some $1.5 million for his gubernatorial campaign against Hochul.
The funds for Zeldin were raised during a reception at the Chera real estate family’s home in New Jersey, where Trump made an appearance and stumped for Zeldin on Sunday, The Post reported.
The former president lauded Zeldin for assisting him during an “impeachment hoax number one and impeachment hoax number two and a lot of scams,” as well as legal cases seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.
“I had these maniacs against me. He was one of those great voices,” Trump noted at the event, according to a recording The Post obtained. “Go support Lee Zeldin.”
Trump also touted his administration’s kept promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after his predecessors including presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama promised to do so but did not.
Zeldin, who is Jewish, also spoke at the event and noted that Trump has been supporting him since his first congressional run in 2014.
“There are people you meet in politics who you refer to as friends. They’re the people who show up the day after you win. They tell you they were there the whole time. I’m pretty sure they weren’t. But then they’re our friends,” Zeldin said at the event. “He’s with supporters and strong supporters — people who believe in him, people who believe that his policies are right for America and that his policies still to this day are right for America.”
Zeldin has been lagging behind Hochul in terms of fundraising and in the polls. Her campaign reportedly has around $11.7 million on hand compared to around $1.6 million for Zeldin before the Sunday event.
Still, some polls have the race tightening in recent weeks, with about two months left before the election, The Post reported, adding:
Zeldin faces a big fundraising gap in his race against Hochul, who has argued to voters that Zeldin’s support for Trump makes him too extreme to lead the Empire State.
“Zeldin is desperately looking for cash and a path forward by doubling down on his allegiance to the far-right MAGA agenda,” her campaign said in a recent press release touting news of Zeldin’s struggles with fundraising compared to the incumbent Democrat.
The GOP congressman and former state Republican lawmaker has campaigned hard on issues that he sees as most concerning to New Yorkers such as rising violent crime. He’s also looking for support from more moderate Democrats disaffected with their party such as former City Councilman Ruben Diaz. Sr., who served alongside Zeldin when he was in the New York Senate, The Post noted.