Kathy Hochul suddenly found herself Governor of New York after Andrew Cuomo’s surprise resignation on August 10, 2021. Cuomo had become a national celebrity for his soothing, daily COVID lockdown spread, but suffered an equally meteoric fall from grace with the accumulation of allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Hochul, a moderate politician from upstate New York who had served for decades in relative obscurity, found herself in the national spotlight. His status as a scandal-free, hard-working, Great Lakes-accented upstate public servant stood in stark contrast to Cuomo’s hypermasculine and intimidating personality. She was also New York’s first female governor and said her inauguration marked a new era in Albany.
As a result, Hochul enjoyed decent approval ratings for his first few months in office. Yet the veneer of ethical patroness began to fade as Governor Hochul’s tenure continued.
Despite his rhetoric of a “new era of transparency”, journalists uncovered legal but ethically dubious practices, such as awarding multimillion-dollar state contracts to major donors, accepting donations from political appointees and a contract authorizing Delaware North, a food concession business where her husband is general counsel, to operate a food concession and visitor center at Niagara Falls State Park. Hochul Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned in disgrace in April 2022 when federal prosecutors exposed his illegal campaign fundraising practices.
Additionally, rather than being a technocratic executive, Hochul was willing to make decisions based on political expediency against her own political beliefs. In a move that infuriated members of his own party, as members of the Senate and Democratic State Assembly strenuously defended their 2019 bail reforms (which included eliminating bail in cash for most misdemeanors and non-violent crimes), Hochul included bail reform reversals in its 2022 executive budget.
In his own words, in a New York Daily News co-authored with former Lieutenant Governor Benjamin, Hochul wrote, “Yet since the law was passed, we have seen a disturbing increase in shootings and homicides. The data, however, does not suggest that bail reform is the primary cause. . . . Blaming bail reform for the increase in violence that American cities are facing is unfair and unsupported by the data.
Yet despite this plea for reason and data, Hochul went on to argue for a rollback of bail reform, saying judges needed more discretion, especially in repeat offenders and weapons cases. illegal fire. Hochul used reformative language like “holistic approaches” and mental health care, but his main pivot was the acceptance of a punitive law and order approach to crime and violence.
By politicizing and fueling right-wing rhetoric on crime, public safety and the rollback of criminal justice reform, Hochul now finds himself in a different place. Current polls show Hochul leading the Republican nominee associated with Donald Trump, Lee Zeldin, by just seven points. In contrast, the months of June through August, immediately before and after Hochul’s primary victory, the governor secured an eighteen percentage point lead over the Republican challenger.
As a “deep blue” state, one of the few states to have a Democratic trifecta, Hochul should be comfortably ahead in this race. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden won 59-39 over Trump in New York, according to official results from the Board of Elections. So why has Kathy Hochul’s support dwindled?
Hochul’s recent TV ad for the general election, released Oct. 21, continues Hochul’s contradictory stance as a “reasonable candidate for law and order” by centering politicized right-wing fears made evident by accounts of right. The ad discusses the importance of getting home safely at night and riding the subway safely, centering the boogeyman of urban violence and fear. Yet Hochul has done almost no visible campaigning in New York, no mass events, very little visibility, and according to an unscientific review of my friends and neighbors (who are top three voters), no mail inviting voters to stand and vote on election day for Hochul.
New York City and surrounding areas are Democratic strongholds and its natural base. Failure to engage with this population appears to be a repeat of previous campaign mistakes, such as Hillary Clinton’s refusal to campaign in Wisconsin and Michigan. In the public events where Hochul shows up in New York City, these events focus on his support for more police on the streets and highlight his work on gun violence. She also aired TV ads comparing Zeldin to Trump.
The Hochul campaign provides no compelling reason for Democrats to run and vote on Election Day, as its campaign message is a defense against Republican talking points, as well as the tried-and-failed strategy of saying “Trump.” again and again. to discredit a Republican challenger. But you can’t get a Republican out of a Republican. Terry McAuliffe, despite his incumbent status, was unable to stave off Glenn Youngkin’s challenge by emphasizing his ties to Trump. In 2022, the effectiveness of using Trump to delegitimize New York Republicans is clearly not working either, despite Hochul spending his millions on such TV advertising.
Hochul needs a positive political vision that meets the needs of New Yorkers to defeat Zeldin’s fearmongering. An appeal to our many unmet needs – cuts to our education budgets, lack of investment in renewable energy, lack of universal health care coverage, economic insecurity, rising rents and a hole in protecting tenants, a looming recession – could change the discussion and bring voters to the polls. But for now, Hochul is repeating the mistakes of overconfident Democrats who have already suffered surprise losses.