NYT Editorial Board endorses Kathy Hochul over 'unfit' right-wing Lee Zeldin for New York governor

NYT Editorial Board endorses Kathy Hochul over 'unfit' right-wing Lee Zeldin for New York governor
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This year's gubernatorial race in New York has emerged as an unexpectedly close contest between incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and her Republican challenger, United States Congressman Lee Zeldin.

Hochul ascended to the Empire State's chief executive spot in August 2021 upon the resignation of then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who left office amid a flurry of sexual misconduct scandals. During her tenure, Hochul, a moderate from Buffalo, has drifted leftward in her expansions of many of Cuomo's progressive policies and economic programs aimed at easing the financial strife brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged New York City before it devastated the rest of the nation.

Zeldin, meanwhile, is hoping that voters' growing frustrations about inflation and acute spikes in crime will give him enough of a boost to oust Hochul. If Zeldin succeeds – and the latest polling indicates that his chances are increasing – it would be an absolutely massive political upset. And it would indicate that the electorate could be willing to look past Zeldin's embrace of former President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories and lies about the 2020 election having been stolen. Zeldin on numerous occasions has repeated Trump's lies, most notably when on January 6th, 2021, he voted against certifying President Joe Biden's landslide victory in the Electoral College.

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For that reason, among many, The New York Times Editorial Board endorsed Hochul on Saturday.

"Like millions of other Americans, New Yorkers are living with sharply higher costs for housing, food and fuel; higher rates of crime; an unsteady economy; and schools where teachers and students are struggling to overcome two years of learning loss. A total of 71,623 people in New York have died of Covid as of October 21st, and the pandemic left many others ill, isolated or angry at the failures at all levels of government to protect them and get the state moving again. New York City’s transit system has not regained its ridership, office towers are not full, and the financial system has taken longer to recover than in many places in the United States. This is fertile ground for a candidate like Representative Lee Zeldin of Long Island, the Republican nominee for governor. He can easily be mistaken for the moderate that he likes to portray: just another average New Yorker worried about jobs and safety, family and gas prices. Someone who wants to shake up Albany and get things done," wrote the Times.

"New York has a long, proud tradition of moderate, thoughtful Republicans, from George Pataki to Nelson Rockefeller. Mr. Zeldin is not part of this tradition," the paper said. "Over and over again, he has demonstrated a loyalty to Trumpism over his oath to defend American democracy and the Constitution. In his campaign for governor, he makes spurious arguments about crime, and his public safety plan appears to be little more than returning to the zero-tolerance policies that have no clear connection to improving safety. Ads from Mr. Zeldin’s campaign use threatening images of Black men to stoke panic, and one features a crime that took place in California. And the plans Mr. Zeldin has laid out during this campaign lack a serious interest in the work of governing, at a time when the state needs strong, energetic leadership."

Hochul, however, "has used her first year in office as governor to show that she can get things done to improve the lives of New Yorkers," the Board explained. "Her determined, collaborative approach to governing dovetailed with important economic and policy advances — again, without the drama of the Cuomo years or the divisiveness that a Trump-supporting governor would bring. Her record includes an upstate hydropower, solar and wind initiative expected to create thousands of jobs, a proposal for a new rail line in New York City, tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses, expanded child care subsidies for families of four earning up to $83,250, and $25 billion for affordable housing."

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It declared that "Hochul has demonstrated a steady, cooperative and focused hand in an uncertain era. That’s equal measures temperament and the urgency of circumstance. But it’s also the mark of a leader who is focused on finding solutions to the big problems — such as battling the economic headwinds hitting the state — rather than getting off track with partisan warfare."

On the other hand, the Board continued, Zeldin's "ideas don’t stand up to scrutiny — they won’t improve safety and they amount to an undemocratic power play, such as his plan to declare an emergency for crime. He told the Times Editorial Board this week that he would remove from office the elected district attorney of Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, who has continued the work of criminal justice reform that the state and city have pursued in recent years. Earlier this year, Mr. Bragg revised some of his policies; Ms. Hochul was among those who urged him to do so. That kind of open dialogue makes for better policy. A governor who would consider removing an elected official over a policy disagreement is nullifying the will of the people of New York."

The Board believes that Hochul, despite having legislative shortcomings such as the lack of "a plan sufficient to address the state’s housing crisis" is much better suited to address and solve issues such as gun violence, defending reproductive rights, and protecting the environment amid the ballooning consequences of climate change.

Zeldin, the Times recalled, " has called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 'a victory for life, for family, for the Constitution, and for federalism' — a position misaligned with a vast majority of New Yorkers. In Congress, he voted for legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks with few exceptions."

Zeldin also "has one of the worst environmental records of any member of Congress from New York, according to the League of Conservation Voters, and would reverse the state’s ban on fracking. As a state senator, he voted against the 2011 Marriage Equality Act, which legalized gay marriage," the Board opined, further stressing that Zeldin "played an active role in attempts by Donald Trump and his allies to undermine American democracy."

The Board thusly concluded that "not only his beliefs but also his actions in the wake of the 2020 election make Mr. Zeldin unfit for the office he is seeking. Across the nation, at the ballot box, Americans this fall are being asked questions about where they stand on truth, integrity, the rule of law and on democracy itself. New Yorkers are no exception."

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