New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called herself the “underdog” in the governor’s race against GOP opponent Rep. Lee Zeldin, despite Democrats being in charge since 2007.
While she has been ahead of her opponent in polling, Zeldin has closed the gap significantly in recent weeks, bringing the Republican within striking distance.
As Politico reported last week:
A Siena College poll Tuesday showed Hochul with an 11-percentage-point lead over Zeldin, down from 17 points a month ago. Later in the day, a Quinnipiac University poll gave Hochul a 4-point lead, raising the prospect of a remarkable upset in the blue state.
The Quinnipiac poll ranked crime as the top issue among voters — above protecting democracy.
Hochul’s advisers say the governor’s closing message ahead of Nov. 8 will emphasize those additional themes and, in particular, specific actions she’s taken since assuming office last year.
Now, the incumbent governor who has a large fundraising advantage appears to be lowering expectations.
During an event marking the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Hochul was asked about the governor’s race and polling that shows Zeldin catching up.
“I think I’ve been real clear in my expectations of this race since the beginning,” Hochul said. “I’ve always said I was an underdog. I’ve been in the job a short time. I have a short, compressed period for people to get to know me. As I said on my first day in office, you may not know me, but I know you.”
She was quickly questioned for claiming to be an “underdog” despite the numerous advantages she enjoys.
“I have always fought hard for 14 elections,” Hochul said. “That is my mental state. I go into every single race fighting because circumstances sometimes you can’t control. You don’t know what’s happening national. There’s a national wave. A lot is out there. There are a lot of forces out there. So I go in with a mindset that I don’t take for granted that they are a Democrat, therefore they are going to vote for me.”
Zeldin, for his part, said Hochul’s campaign efforts are too little too late.
“There’s also no enthusiasm for Kathy Hochul,” Zeldin said. “She waited too late. She ran a Rose Garden strategy, which she should deeply regret. That’s not how you do this. You should spend time with the people.”
He also believes former Gov. Andrew Cuomo would have been able to rally Democrats better than his successor.
“She just did a massive face plant with this campaign,” Zeldin added.