Democrat Kathy Hochul has defeated Republican congressman Lee Zeldin, an ally of Donald Trump who ran a campaign focused on fear of violent crime, to become the first woman elected New York governor.
“Tonight, you made your voices heard loud and clear. And you made me the first woman ever elected to be the governor of the state of New York. But I’m not here to make history; I’m here to make a difference,” Hochul told supporters Tuesday night.
“I have felt a weight on my shoulders to make sure that every little girl and all the women of the state who’ve had to bang up against glass ceilings everywhere they turn to know that a woman could be elected in her own right and
successfully govern a state as rough and tumble as New York.”
Hochul, a Buffalo native, had been expected to win in a state where there are more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. New Yorkers haven’t elected a Republican as governor since Gov. George Pataki won a third term in 2002. But Zeldin made the race competitive, closing in on Hochul in the final weeks and appearing to spur her to speak more about public safety.
“I would like to congratulate New York Governor Kathy Hochul on her election to a full four-year term,” Zeldin said in a statement Wednesday. “This race was a once-in-a-generation campaign, with a very close margin in the bluest of blue states. Our grassroots volunteers and supporters’ unrelenting passion and hard work made this incredibly close race possible and helped us win at least 49 of New York’s 62 counties.”
Hochul’s formidable campaign fundraising allowed her to buy TV ads portraying herself as a defender of abortion rights and describing Zeldin as “extreme and dangerous” because of his ties to Trump and his vote against certifying the 2020 election results.
As a nod to the history Hochul hoped to make as the first woman to be elected governor, she appeared at a rally days before the election with Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected to the country’s second-highest office, and Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a major party’s presidential nominee and New York’s first female senator. Hochul is among eight women who have won statewide elections in New York, a group she initially joined when she was elected lieutenant governor in 2014. She became the first woman to serve as governor when she took over for Cuomo.
Hochul’s steady path was upset in the final weeks as the race tightened. Democrats faced national headwinds in this year’s midterm elections as the party in power typically bears the brunt of voter frustrations. This year, those frustrations include stubborn inflation and a shaky economy, but in New York, concerns about crime took precedence.