The 2022 New York Gubernatorial Election: Who Will “Save Our State?”

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It’s been twenty years since New York elected a republican governor. Way back in 2002, New York was still mustering strength to rebuild after the 9/11 attacks. But today, heavy on the minds of New Yorkers are crime and safety, the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reproductive health care. 

Gearing up for the 2022 gubernatorial election this Tuesday, November 8th, the race between Governor Kathy Hochul and Representative Lee Zeldin is tightening. 

The two candidates have vastly different visions for the state of New York. But beyond the catchy slogans and well-crafted campaign advertisements, what are these real visions? What plans do the respective candidates have for the governor’s office? 

“I’m here for one reason: to save our state,” Zeldin said during the televised debate on October 25th. The representative of New York’s 1st congressional district from Long Island, New York, now vies for the governorship. He stresses the need for new leadership in New York and criticizes Hochul’s “extreme policies.” 

Hochul, the incumbent, takes a different approach. The moderate from Buffalo, New York and former Lieutenant Governor assumed the governorship after former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in August 2021 amid a string of sexual harassment allegations that were brought against him. In the past year, Hochul has taken up the job enthusiastically and seeks to continue the work she’s begun, especially in economic development and affordable housing. “I have a record of getting things done,” she said at the October debate. 

Lee Zeldin may not have the experience of serving as governor, but he certainly has a vision for the Empire State. As governor, one of Zeldin’s top priorities is crime and safety. Zeldin points to bail reform laws as the biggest threat to safety. Although, statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice services find that the rate of re-arrests of people out on bail in New York City remains roughly unchanged from 19% in 2019, before bail reform, and 20% in 2020, after bail reform. Despite the uncertain evidence of bail reform creating more crime, Zeldin plans to keep New York safe by repealing cashless bail and the Less Is More Act. 

Zeldin’s platform emphasizes a need to be tough on crime and champions law enforcement. He plans to increase the New York police force to ensure greater safety and stands in staunch opposition to criminal justice reform efforts to “defund the police.” 

While Zeldin criticizes Hochul as being anti-police and too lenient with crime, the governor denies such accusations. In September 2022, Hochul announced $50 million in additional state funding for law enforcement. She cites her work in conjunction with Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD to tackle crime in New York subways as proof of her support. 

Above all, Hochul’s two greatest concerns regarding crime are gun violence and the circulation of illegal guns in New York. After the Buffalo shooting in May 2022 which killed ten people and the increasing shootings throughout the country, Hochul signed a legislative package strengthening New York gun laws and banning the purchase of assault weapons by teenagers. She seeks to continue this work and get more illegal guns off the streets of New York and out of the hands of young people. 

There may be no topic of greater concern to many Americans than the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the U.S. economy, spiking the inflation rate to as high as 9.1% in June 2022. Zeldin and Hochul each have their own ambitions to help struggling New Yorkers and spur economic development. 

Zeldin’s plans to aid the economy include cutting taxes for all, decreasing state spending, and shortening the process of creating affordable housing in New York to attract more investors. As a congressman, he cosponsored the FAST Act in 2015, an infrastructure law which focused on transportation projects and fixing America’s roadways. He cites his congressional record as proof of his ongoing commitment to making transportation more efficient for New Yorkers. He also seeks to reduce energy costs and create good-paying jobs by reversing New York’s ban on natural gas drilling and approving new pipelines. 

The extraction of natural gas, otherwise known as fracking, was banned in New York by Governor Cuomo in 2014 due to its health risks such as respiratory and cardiac problems. But Zeldin’s goal is to make energy more affordable for New Yorkers and he believes that reversing New York’s fracking ban is the best route to accomplish that. 

Creating jobs in the environmental sector is yet another endeavor in which the candidates diverge. In Hochul’s efforts to combat climate change and transition New York to more renewable energy sources, she plans to create good-paying clean energy jobs. 

On the subject of affordable housing, Hochul is also no outsider. In April 2022, she announced the FY 2023 State Budget, which includes a $25 billion, five-year affordable housing plan to build 100,000 units of affordable homes in New York. 

Hochul looks to her record as evidence of her commitment to fighting for the working class. In January 2022, she announced $100 million in tax relief for 195,000 small businesses across New York state. Hochul is also accelerating middle-class tax cuts to provide relief for 6.1 million New Yorkers by 2023. 

Both Hochul and Zeldin claim they seek to help the people of New York through their economic policies. But their methods of achieving this goal stand starkly opposed. 

The two candidates also clash over the subject of reproductive health care. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, abortion access is another issue at the forefront of this election. Although the decision did not directly impact New York, as the right to abortion has been codified in New York law since 1970, the continuous restrictions of abortion access throughout the country have caused worry among New Yorkers. 

Hochul prides herself on her efforts to preserve the right to abortion. As governor, she has affirmed the right to abortion by directing the state in making abortions more accessible and developing a Patient Bill of Rights, which makes New Yorkers more aware of their rights and legal protections. Hochul has frequently criticized Zeldin on his opposition to abortion and cites it as a reason why he is unfit to govern New York. She has pointed out his cosponsoring of H.R.1011, the Life at Conception Act, which was introduced in Congress in February 2021. 

Zeldin has said little on the subject of abortion and perhaps his record in Congress speaks for itself. But to set the record straight, he said he will not change New York’s abortion laws if elected governor. 

A Republican victory in the New York gubernatorial election would be a major upset in a state accustomed to wide-margin Democratic wins. In 2018, Cuomo defeated his Republican opponent Marcus Molinaro 59.6% to 36.2%. 

Current polls have displayed varying predictions of the election outcome. Many have Hochul leading Zeldin, but as the election approaches, the margin is narrowing. A recent poll by Emerson College has Hochul leading Zeldin 54% to 45%, down from her 15-point lead in September. Another October poll from Quinnipiac University has Hochul only slightly leading Zeldin 50% to 46%. 

Ultimately, the race is gearing up to be closer than first expected. Now, all there is to be done is get to the polls and vote.