Can Republicans Pull Off an Empire State Upset?

Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in New York since 2002. Can Lee Zeldin break the G.O.P.’s losing streak?


Recent polls are showing a closer governor race than the Empire State has seen in two decades. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in New York since 2002. Can Lee Zeldin break the G.O.P.’s losing streak and pull off an upset victory?

  • Zeldin, a Long Island area Congressman, is challenging New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Gov. Hochul assumed office in 2021 after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace. 
  • A “stunning” new poll from Co/efficient shows Zeldin and Hochul in a dead heat, with Zeldin slightly ahead with 45.6% to Hochul’s 45.3%. This poll is the first to show Zeldin tied or ahead of the Democratic incumbent. 
  • Siena College and Quinnipiac University polls released this week also found a close race, albeit with Hochul in the lead. Hochul led the Siena College survey 52%-41%, while the Quinnipiac poll showed a tighter 50%-46% race. 
  • Hochul made abortion rights and Zeldin’s support of Trump the central themes of her campaign, but the narrowing polls forced her to change her message in the campaign’s closing weeks. She launched her first crime-focused ad on Saturday, backed by a $1 million ad buy. 
  • Zeldin has made New York’s rising crime rate a central theme of his campaign. The issue struck close to home in July after a man tried to stab Zeldin and was released from jail within 24 hours thanks to bail reform signed into law by Gov. Hochul. 
  • The man was later jailed by federal authorities but on Thursday a federal judge ordered his release into an alcohol treatment program.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times endorsed Gov. Hochul for reelection. Even in their endorsement, the Times acknowledged the race for governor is “unusually close,” reflecting “the frustrations of many voters in the state.”
  • The New York Daily News argued Zeldin is “trying to have it both ways on abortion” for saying he would leave New York’s abortion laws alone on the campaign trail while supporting pro-life legislation during his time in Congress.
  • New York Magazine attributed the tightening polls to efforts Zeldin is making to cut into Hochul’s base. Two polls released this week found Hochul leading Zeldin by narrow margins, with Zeldin cutting into Hochul’s support in solidly Democratic New York City. Zeldin’s support in the city was at 23% and 37% in the two polls, and his campaign said he could win statewide if he secures 30% of the vote in the Big Apple.



  • The Washington Examiner argued that “signs of a red wave abound.” While the Examiner acknowledges it’s “premature to predict” Zeldin can pull off the upset and defeat Hochul, his ability to close the polling gap alone is remarkable.
  • The Daily Wire noted the Co/efficient poll that found Zeldin narrowly ahead of Hochul had other bright indicators for Empire State Republicans. Zeldin led among white and Hispanic voters and appears to have the support of 1 in 5 black voters along with nearly a quarter of Democrats.
  • Zeldin told Breitbart New York has reached a “breaking point” after 15 years of Democratic leadership. Zeldin warned Republicans needed to “work harder now” and keep working hard “until the polls close on election night.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2022