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OPINION: Gov. Hochul competently hammers Zeldin in NY gubernatorial debate

OPINION: Gov. Hochul competently hammers Zeldin in NY gubernatorial debate

OPINION: Gov. Hochul competently hammers Zeldin in NY gubernatorial debate

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No love was lost in the intense one-hour debate between New York Governor Kathy Hochul and challenger Lee Zeldin. Below are some highlights, with video clips.


Zeldin set his tone for the night by making New York sound like the second circle of Hell: “I’m here for one reason,” he said, “To save our state . . .  New York is in crisis . . . . You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies.” He went on to describe “soaring crime,” discussing New York City as if it were Gotham in need of Batman.

In contrast, Hochul began by saying, “Well, nice to see you as well, Lee.” She proceeded to discuss her values and beliefs: “Every single day I wake up, I think of how I can fight for you and your families.”

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Guns & Hammers

Hochul talked often about guns and getting them off the street. Addressing Zeldin, she said, “You can work on keeping people scared or keeping people safe.”

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In one of the more bizarre answers of the night, Zeldin suggested that we shouldn’t worry about guns because–wait for it. Waaaiiit for iiiiiiitttt–people have committed other crimes without them!

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“Unfortunately,” he said, “Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes that are being committed are these crimes with guns. And you have people who are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars, they’re being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers.”

This “logic” is so incredibly stupid, of course, that even Trumpers should be suspicious (but perhaps won’t be).

Here are some stats anyhow to clarify: In December of 2021, New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services issued a report covering the periods 2011-2020. It found an increase of just over 21% in gun homicides during that period. There was also a huge jump from 2019-2020: 78%. In 2020, gun homicides made up 543 out of 836 homicides in the state – that’s 65%. Every other type of homicide all together accounted for just 35%.

As for people being beaten to death with hammers, it’s so rare that you can find pretty much every time it’s happened in New York over the past ten years with a simple Google search.

As for subway deaths, in December of 2020, the Daily News reported that 58 people had been killed by subways – but (and it’s a giant BUT), 32 were clear suicides and none were clear murders (most of the rest were likely accidents, including from homeless people who may wander around or sleep by the tracks).

One of the anchors, Errol Louis, later noted that there were eight homicides in the subway in 2022 (though he did not note how many involved people being pushed). Some people do get pushed in front of trains – it does happen – but how does that mean we shouldn’t take on the much larger problem of guns?

Respecting Elections

Zeldin said he would look to get rid of Alvin Bragg, an elected DA in Manhattan, “On day one.” Hochul responded that you can’t simply overturn elections you don’t like.

When asked by moderator Susan Arbetter if he would still vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin said he would.

Fortunately, when asked if he would respect the results of the gubernatorial race, should he lose, he said he would respect them. (Unless maybe he doesn’t – we’ll see.)


Zeldin seemed to have no solution for the eviction crisis. His answer to it was the usual Republican panacea: cut taxes and everything magically heals itself.

Hochul, for her part, talked about passing legislation that approved $25 billion to build 100,000 more units. She also pointed out that Zeldin voted against Biden’s infrastructure bill.

While Hochul’s efforts are admirable, the truth is that a large part of New York’s housing crisis is due to local restrictions that make it difficult for builders to build. The result is soaring rents.


When asked if she felt any restrictions on abortion were reasonable, Hochul evaded the question, saying only that we have to protect a woman’s right to an abortion.

Zeldin’s evasion was even worse: when asked if he would try to make abortions illegal, he essentially said that it would be extremely unlikely that he’d have the power to do such a thing, so why even worry about it? Really. You can watch his answer below.

“Lee, you can’t run from your record,” Hochul said. She pointed out that his name is on a bill called “Life Begins at Conception.”

On Trump and Biden

Both were asked if they want the presidents they’ve supported to run again. Hochul said she absolutely wants Biden to run again; Zeldin said about Trump, “Not even thinking about it.” Right. Because why would it matter to you if the person who tried to overthrow our government tries again? It was his second dodge about whether or not he supports Trump. He didn’t seem to have a problem supporting him when he voted against certifying the presidential election.

On spending $600 million to build a stadium for the Buffalo Bills

This was Hochul’s worst answer of the night. She said that she agreed to spend $600 million on a stadium to “keep the Buffalo Bills in New York.”

Yet we should really let team owners spend their own money; stadiums are a terrible investment for governments and they should stop funding them.

For his part, Zeldin said he’d renegotiate the deal.

Covid Vaccinations

Hochul said she is not mandating vaccines for school-age kids at this moment, but is encouraging them.

Zeldin said, “I will not mandate Covid vaccines for your kids, ever,” then criticized SUNY and CUNY colleges for mandating vaccines.

Because science is bad, right Lee?


Hochul held herself up fairly well, though some answers (like about the stadium) could have been stronger. Zeldin came off as a typical Trump loon, which his supporters are bound to like – not much logic, but a lot of anger. The moderators, careful not to appear partial by pointing out basic facts or logic – such as that hammers don’t kill as many people as guns – were by their ineptitude partial to Zeldin.

Hochul is a clearly more competent and respectable figure than Zeldin, who I wouldn’t even buy a used car from, much less have run the state.

Loony Lee probably won’t like Ross too much after this piece. But you can – on Twitter! @RossRosenfeld

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