A new poll finds Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul ahead of her Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, as she makes inroads into the law enforcement sector, which traditionally has held views to the right of many Democrats.
The Siena College poll finds Hochul gained three points over Zeldin in the past month. She now has a 17-point lead, at 54% to 37%, said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.
“Hochul is doing a great job holding on to Democrats,” said Greenberg, who added the governor has the support of 81% of all likely Democratic voters.
But he said Zeldin is slightly losing ground with his core Republican base, from 84% in August to 77% now.
Greenberg said Zeldin’s close association with former President Donald Trump might be hurting him in his own party. Zeldin held a fundraiser with Trump in early September. Unlike Republicans in other states, many in New York are not Trump supporters.
Hochul continues to trail Zeldin among independent voters, though, where she is three points behind, at 45% to 42%.
The poll also finds that the No. 1 issue for voters is the economy, followed by concerns over threats to democracy and an increase in the crime rate.
In past elections, Republicans have held an edge on anti-crime measures. Hochul backs the changes to the state’s bail laws that ended many forms of cash bail. Many law enforcement groups oppose bail reform.
Nevertheless, Hochul received the support of a major police union this week. The Police Benevolent Association of New York State credits the governor with addressing staffing shortages and increasing pay for some officers to offset higher costs of living.
The governor spoke Wednesday to a conference of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services that was attended by members of numerous police forces. She pledged to invest $50 million into public safety, with $20 million for new technologies, $10 million for body cameras and updated computer systems, and $20 million for pretrial services, including better supervision of defendants who are not incarcerated but are awaiting court dates.
Hochul distanced herself from the views of some in the progressive wing of her party, saying she has never favored cutting law enforcement budgets.
“You’ll never hear the words from me or my administration, ‘defund the police,’” Hochul told the group. “In fact, we are doing the opposite.”
Hochul does not believe any of her policies have led to the increase in the crime rate. She said the current rise in violent crime, which is still far lower than in previous decades, is largely due to the pandemic. She said the disruption caused by the disease “exacerbated” all of society’s problems and left many feeling disconnected.
Shortly after the Hochul campaign announced the endorsement from the PBA, Zeldin’s campaign said their candidate was endorsed by another law enforcement group, the Police Conference of New York.
The Zeldin campaign did not immediately offer comments about the new poll.