Harris and Clinton rally for under-pressure New York Governor Kathy Hochul: ‘Everything is on the line’

Prominent Democratic women officials make a late push for the state’s first female governor, now in a tight race against Trump-backed Republican Lee Zeldin, Alex Woodward reports from New York City

Friday 04 November 2022 01:22 GMT
(Getty Images)

Growing up near Charleston, South Carolina, Satrina Boyce said her father told her to vote every chance she had.

“So I’ve always voted,” she told The Independent outside a campaign rally at Barnard College at Columbia University on the edge of West Harlem. “But this feels different.”

Five days before Election Day, Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton headlined a campaign rally at the all-women’s college on 3 November alongside Democratic women political leaders from across the state, making a late push for Governor Kathy Hochul, who is on track to be the first woman elected to the governor’s office in state history.

But Ms Hochul is in a tightening race against Republican candidate Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman endorsed by Donald Trump. The race has grown too close for Ms Hochul, leading a state that resoundingly rejected Mr Trump in 2016 and 2020 and has not elected a Republican governor in 20 years.

Ms Clinton, who earned roughly 60 per cent of the state’s vote as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, told the crowd that the election represents a “choice between two very different ideas between who we are as a state and a country [and] what kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren,” echoing Democratic campaign warnings that a victory for Mr Zeldin is an endorsement of an antidemocratic GOP agenda.

“Republicans make no secret what they want to do,” said Ms Clinton, pointing to GOP threats to abortion rights, LGBT+ rights and voting rights, as several candidates across the US rely on crime-fighting rhetoric while mocking political violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

“Why would any sensible person want to give power to someone who thinks it’s funny that a person gets assaulted in their own home?” she said. “They don’t want to keep you safe. They want to keep you scared.”

Hillary Clinton joined a campaign rally for New York Governor Kathy Hochul in New York City on 3 November.
Hillary Clinton joined a campaign rally for New York Governor Kathy Hochul in New York City on 3 November. (REUTERS)

The vice president said that “everything is on the line” with 2022 midterm elections.

State officials must have “the courage” to push back against a wave of anti-abortion laws and a potential federal ban on abortion care after the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, she said.

People serving as governor and attorneys general “will be the last line of defence, with what we’re seeing across the country,” Ms Harris said.

A Siena poll from late September showed Governor Hochul with a 17-point lead over her opponent. Two weeks later, polling from Quinnipiac University narrowed that lead to just 4 per cent. And one week before Election Day, polling from PIX11 News/Emerson College Polling/The Hill showed the governor leading by eight percentage points, 52 per cent to Mr Zeldin’s 44 per cent.

That varying lead has been worryingly too close for Ms Hochul’s campaign, while Republicans have pounced on the chance to chip away at a reliable Democratic firewall ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, widely considered a potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination, rallied for Mr Zeldin on Long Island on 29 October, telling the crowd that New York voters electing a Republican governor “will be the 21st century version of the shot heard round the world.”

If elected, Mr Zeldin would be at grave odds with the state’s largely Democratic leadership, as well as two prosecutors – state Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg – who are leading civil and criminal investigations into Mr Trump and his business empire.

Mr Zeldin has pledged to fire Mr Bragg, who was overwhelmingly elected to office last year.

“This is our moment,” Governor Hochul said at Thursday night’s rally.

“This is when we think of the ghosts of the past,” she said, invoking the first woman’s rights convention in the US at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.

“I want you to feel the weight on your shoulders as you march out of here,” Ms Hochul said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rallied with Republican candidate for New York Governor Lee Zeldin on 29 October.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rallied with Republican candidate for New York Governor Lee Zeldin on 29 October. (AP)

The governor has characterised the race as a referendum against right-wing extremism, as well as a vote to support democracy and abortion rights.

Mr Zeldin has supported anti-abortion legislation in Congress, and he voted against both of Mr Trump’s impeachments, tried to block the creation of a congressional committee to investigate the Capitol attack, and voted to object to 2020 election results.

“There are issues on the table that are quite critical to basic rights, the rights of women, voting rights – I think it’s essential we show up,” supporter Raqiba Bourne told The Independent.

“There are so, so many issues that impact our daily lives that we need to be concerned about,” Ms Boyce added. “And I’m here because I’m concerned – I’m a mother of two Black boys, I’m a wife, I live in Harlem.”

She fears that New York under Republican leadership “would slowly chip away at the rights we have today,” she said. “If Republicans have control of the House, if Lee Zeldin is governor … we will have to fight even harder.”

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