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Poll finds NY Gov. Hochul leads Zeldin by 17 points

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis

A new poll finds New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul ahead of her Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, as Hochul is making inroads into the law enforcement sector, which traditionally has held views to the right of many Democrats.

The Siena College poll finds Hochul gained three points over Zeldin in the past month. She now has a 17-point lead, at 54% to 37%, says Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“Hochul is doing a great job holding on to Democrats,” said Greenberg, who says the governor has the support of 81% of all Democratic likely voters.

But he says Zeldin is losing ground, slightly, with his core Republican base, from 84% in August to 77% now.

Greenberg says Zeldin’s close association with former President Donald Trump might be hurting him in his own party. Zeldin held a fundraiser with Trump in early September. Unlike Republicans in other states, many in New York are not Trump supporters.

Hochul continues to trail Zeldin among independent voters though, where she is three points behind, at 45% to 42%.

The poll also finds that the number one issue for voters is the economy, followed by concerns over threats to democracy and an increase in the crime rate.

In past elections, Republicans have held an edge on anti-crime measures. Hochul backs the changes to the state’s bail laws that ended many forms of cash bail. Many law enforcement groups oppose bail reform.

Nevertheless, Hochul received the support of a major police union this week. The Police Benevolent Association of New York State credits the governor with addressing staffing shortages and increasing pay for some officers to offset higher costs of living.

The governor spoke Wednesday to a conference of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services that was attended by members of numerous police forces. She pledged to invest $50 million into public safety, with $20 million for new technologies, $10 million for body cameras and updated computer systems, and $20 million for pretrial services, including better supervision of defendants who are not incarcerated but are awaiting court dates.

Hochul distanced herself from the views of some in the progressive wing of her party, saying she has never favored cutting law enforcement budgets.

“You’ll never hear the words from me or my administration ‘defund the police,’” Hochul told the group. “In fact, we are doing the opposite.”

Hochul does not believe any of her policies have led to the increase in the crime rate. She says the current rise in violent crime, which is still far lower than in previous decades, is largely due to the pandemic. She says the disruption caused by the disease “exacerbated” all of society’s problems and left many feeling disconnected.

Shortly after the Hochul campaign announced the endorsement from the PBA, Zeldin’s campaign said their candidate was endorsed by another law enforcement group, the Police Conference of New York.

The Zeldin campaign did not immediately offer comments about the new poll.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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