Candidates at full throttle on final weekend of close governor’s race

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Gov. Kathy Hochul, left, and Rep. Lee Zeldin. (New York NOW)

Gov. Kathy Hochul and her challenger, Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, locked in a close race, kept up frenzied campaign schedules over the weekend, with just one full day left before Election Day.

Everything is now about getting their supporters to turn out at the polls.

Hochul, a Democrat, spent much of the weekend in New York City, where she spoke at several Black churches, and appeared with the current and a past U.S. president.

Former President Bill Clinton headlined a get-out-the-vote rally in Brooklyn. Clinton, whose successful 1992 campaign for president focused on fixing economic problems, said once again, it’s the economy that has made the race so close.

“(It’s) because of inflation. When the cost of living goes up, it’s unsettling,” Clinton said. “We closed down during COVID, and when we started opening up, a lot of things had come loose.”

The former president told the audience that the turnout in the borough could make the difference in whether Hochul is successful or not.

Hochul warned about becoming too comfortable, saying much is at stake on Tuesday.

“Complacency can destroy all the rights we have fought for so long,” Hochul said. “And that’s why this also is a fight against complacency.”

Hochul is ahead in many parts of New York City, but the race is closer in the surrounding suburbs. To help her draw supporters there to the polls, President Joe Biden spoke at a rally at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester County on Sunday night.

“Governor Hochul is the first woman to serve as governor of New York,” Biden said. “And on Tuesday night, with your help, she’ll be the first woman elected governor of New York.”

Biden said Tuesday’s election will determine the future of the country for a generation.

“We face one of those inflection points,” Biden said. “We all know it in our bones that our democracy is at risk.”

Hochul’s campaign has focused on democracy and abortion rights, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She said Zeldin opposes abortion rights and could repeal the state’s laws that codified the rights of Roe into law.

She also has highlighted his ties to former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Zeldin, and the congressman’s vote against certifying the 2020 elections.

Zeldin said he won’t try to repeal the state’s abortion rights laws, and has downplayed his association with Trump.

The Republican challenger focused on campaigning upstate on Sunday, with a bus tour through Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton.

“Broome County, are you ready to fire Kathy Hochul?” Zeldin asked. “Forty-eight hours to go. That’s it — homestretch!”

He spent Saturday in the Hudson Valley, including a rally in Orange County featuring Tulsi Gabbard, former presidential candidate and congresswoman from Hawaii.

Gabbard, who, like Zeldin, also served in the U.S. armed forces, was a Democrat until she left the party last month and endorsed several GOP candidates in Tuesday’s midterm election. She said Zeldin will stand up for freedom and against government mandates.

“Having this radical woke Democrat party in charge of the House, Senate and the White House has put us in a very dangerous place as a country,” said Gabbard, who added who New Yorkers elect as governor “matters to the country.”

Zeldin said Hochul is failing to take action to bring down the crime rate. The congressman wants to repeal the state’s controversial 2019 bail reform laws, saying that, if elected, he will issue an executive order to immediately suspend the laws. He said Hochul is out of touch with New Yorkers’ concerns about crime.

“And when she says that she doesn’t understand why that is so important to me, she’s saying that she doesn’t understand why that is so important to you,” Zeldin told the crowd.

Hochul in April oversaw changes to the bail laws, but does not support repealing them, saying the roots of the increased crime are more complicated than that. And she said no anti-crime plan can work without gun safety measures.

Hochul has enacted laws, including strengthening the state’s red flag laws and banning anyone under 21 from buying a semi-automatic rifle. Zeldin opposes gun control measures, saying they impede Second Amendment rights.