The race for New York governor is in every sense playing out on a far larger stage.
National political figures have campaigned here on behalf of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has represented the 1st Congressional District since 2015.
In a state long considered reliably blue, the incumbent governor has struggled to meet Mr. Zeldin’s momentum. Polls show a tight race, with much of the focus on crime rates and bail reform. Mr. Zeldin, who also is on the Conservative Party line, has pushed those two issues hard; until recently, Ms. Hochul, who is also on the Working Families Party line, has failed to confront them in an equally forceful way. Her campaign should have done better.
Beyond the boundaries of New York politics and this race are critical issues for the nation.
And it can be summed up this way: Mr. Zeldin during the four years of the Trump presidency was as loyal a follower of Mr. Trump as anyone in Congress.
Even after a violent pro-Trump mob’s effort to upend the Electoral College vote that certified the presidency for Joe Biden, after all the destruction in the Capitol by Trump’s conspiracy-loving followers and after gallows appeared outside the Capitol as the crowd chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” Mr. Zeldin voted not to accept the results in some states.
In spite of all the violence, Mr. Zeldin held Mr. Trump blameless. As an apologist, Mr. Zeldin did not draw the line anywhere. What he and his fellow MAGA Republicans did was unprecedented in American election history.
Ms. Hochul became governor in August 2021 when Andrew Cuomo resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. As Mr. Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, she then took his place. Ever since, she has had to deal with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — as of mid-October, more than 70,000 New York residents have died — and a host of other crises, from a struggling economy, to a housing squeeze causing rents and purchase prices to skyrocket, to what we’ve learned is the harmful impact of lost classroom time on students’ tests scores.
As governor, Ms. Hochul has responded effectively to specific issues impacting the state’s residents, while Mr. Zeldin has painted the state as awash in crime. In terms of messaging, Mr. Zeldin has been pretty much a onetrick pony. He has also said he would fire the Manhattan district attorney — who was elected by voters. That kind of interference in the democratic process has Trumpian echoes.
In response to Supreme Court decisions she finds abhorrent, Ms. Hochul has beefed up state laws to protect reproductive freedoms and, critically important, pushed through state legislation to counteract the high court’s reversal of New York’s restriction on the concealed carrying of firearms.
By contrast, Mr. Zeldin hailed the overturning of Roe v. Wade and remains a strong promoter of the interests of the National Rifle Association. He talks tough on crime but is the opposite on gun rights. Does he believe in any restrictions at all? Criminal investigations related directly to Mr. Trump are underway in multiple jurisdictions. As a result, some Republican leaders have distanced themselves from the former president. Mr. Zeldin is not one of them. He still supports those who preach the “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a belief that cuts deep into the democratic underpinnings of our republic.
It is inexplicable that Mr. Zeldin has so steadfastly aligned himself with the MAGA crowd, some of whom are profoundly antisemitic and work to spread absurd conspiracy theories that promote violence.
Recent polls, so close as to give this blue state a purplish look, suggest that a centrist Republican — one who respects the Constitution and the rule of law — could have been elected governor. Mr. Zeldin is anything but that.
We endorse Kathy Hochul for governor.