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Race for New York governor nominations enters final stretch

Seven candidates, 62 counties, one state: The Republicans and Democrats vying for their parties’ nomination are entering a final 10-day stretch starting with early voting Saturday and culminating on June 28.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Kathy Hochul is working to cement her place on the ballot after she quickly amassed most of the institutional support in New York state politics following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo last year. She’s being challenged by Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

For the Republicans, Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island is fending off three challengers after he received his party’s preferred designation status: former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, former Trump administration official Andrew Giuliani and businessman Harry Wilson.

The race for governor is taking place against a backdrop of deepening uncertainty for New Yorkers. Rising gas prices and inflation have followed the easing of pandemic restrictions from the winter. New York City’s economy is not back to full strength and the state’s political clout in Washington is set to be diminished again with the loss of a House seat after its population did not grow as fast as the rest of the country.

Being a New Yorker is an increasingly expensive proposition and all candidates have pledged to make life easier on middle-income and working-class voters. New York has been and remains a Democratic state, with Republican voters outnumbered by those who do not wish to enroll in a party.

Concerns surrounding public safety and crime, however, have been increasingly cited as top issues for voters of all stripes. Can Democrats maintain their hold on state government? Or will the Republican wilderness years come to an end?

Hochul’s strength

Bruce Gyory, SUNY Albany adjunct professor and former advisor to several governors, believes Hochul is in a good position to win the party primary this month. He sees in recent polling, including the Siena College survey that was released this week, a poor trendline for Suozzi especially.

“Hochul’s numbers on favorable to unfavorable nudged up ever so slightly from 44-34% to 46-37%,” Gyory wrote in a memo analyzing the data. “But among prime Democratic voting blocs she made real progress from the late April to the early June data.”

That includes improvements among Democratic voters, liberals, women and Black voters. She has remained steady with moderates and jumped in support with voters who are age 55 and older.

Hochul has so far been campaigning on and highlighting her stances for abortion access and tighter gun laws in the state — two key outcomes from the end of the legislative session. Gyory advised Hochul to not play a passive camapign this summer, especially if economic concerns grow and a recession looms.

“This fall will become a question of issue salience. Will voters focus only on rising crime and inflation or will their issue concerns extend to gun safety, protecting a woman’s right to choose and the need to address climate change and perhaps economic justice?” he wrote. “The broadening of the issues voters will prioritize, as well as generating enthusiasm, will become essential to the Democrats’ hopes of success this fall, for both the gubernatorial and legislative campaigns.”

Republican tossup?

Gyory wrote the available polling data has been all over the place when it comes to the Republican field for governor. Wilson, a wealthy businessman who has dipped into his own fortune to fund the race, has hammered Zeldin in TV ads airing in heavy rotation in parts of the state. Zeldin only recently began to criticize both Wilson and Astorino.

That leaves Giuliani, with a famous recognizable name and beloved by many Republican voters.

The Siena poll this month showed Zeldin continuing to struggle with name ID, and Wilson’s ads may have played a role in nudging up his unfavorable rating. But Zeldin has two advantages: Support from the Republican Party in the state and coming from a GOP-heavy House seat in Suffolk County on Long Island.

“So if the Siena data is accurate this is a race between Zeldin and Giuliani, pitting Giuliani’s name recognition edge against Zeldin’s institutional support,” Gyory wrote. “And the outcome could come down to whether Astorino undercuts Giuliani more downstate than Wilson’s negative ad barrage has hurt Zeldin upstate.”

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