Kathy Hochul re-elected as New York governor, heading off challenge from Jewish Republican Lee Zeldin

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. who won her bid for re-election against Rep. Lee Zeldin, campaigns in New York City on Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo by Jacob Henry)

(New York Jewish Week) — Gov. Kathy Hochul prevailed in her reelection bid over Rep. Lee Zeldin, heading off an unexpectedly strong challenge from the Long Island Republican and Jewish congressman who drew strong support from Orthodox communities across New York State, as well as major financial backing from Jewish philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder.

NBC called the race for Hochul at 11:09 p.m. By midnight, she led 54-45.

“Tonight, you made your voices heard loud and clear,” Hochul said in her victory speech at Capitale on the Bowery to a crowd of cheering supporters. “You made me the first woman ever elected to be the governor of the state of New York.”

“I’m not here to make history. I’m here to make a difference,” she added.

This will be the first full term for Hochul, who was lieutenant governor until her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal in 2021.

Her lieutenant governor, Antonio Delgado, also won his election. His wife, Lacey Schwartz Delgado, is a Jewish filmmaker.

Hochul, who won praise from non-denominational Jewish community leaders as well as an endorsement from one major Hasidic faction, campaigned on protecting abortion rights and passing stronger gun laws, and could boast of beefing up penalties for hate crimes as well as funding for security at targeted institutions.

Zeldin, who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, went hard after Hochul on issues like crime and the economy, and courted Orthodox voters by promising a hands-off approach to yeshivahs whose instruction of secular subjects is not matching state standards.

The outcome raises questions about the influence of the Hasidic voting bloc, which is widely seen as monolithic and powerful but in reality is more nuanced. Hochul had the official endorsement of the Satmar sect, but Zeldin rallies in Orthodox Brooklyn were packed and high-energy. Now, Zeldin supporters in those communities will have to work with a governor whom they opposed on issues including oversight of yeshivahs.

While the race appeared to be tight as the campaign came to a close, Hochul won big in Manhattan with 82.4% of the vote. Meanwhile, Zeldin took Staten Island with 66.9% of the vote.

Other wins for Jewish politicians across New York were as easy as predicted.

Sen. Charles Schumer was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term, making him New York’s longest-serving senator.

Rep. Jerry Nadler will continue his 30-year-plus career in public service after being elected to another term in the House, representing the newly redrawn 12th Congressional District, which merges the Upper West Side and Upper East Side.

Former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman officially locked up his bid in New York’s 10th Congressional District, which includes Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, and which saw a battle between 10 candidates in one of the city’s most heated primary races.

Democrat Daniel Rosenthal, a high-profile Orthodox Assemblymember in Queens who supported Hochul, was re-elected in the 27th Assembly District.

In Staten Island, Jewish Democrat Max Rose lost his bid for election against Republican Nicole Malliotakis in New York’s 11th Congressional District. Rose sought to reclaim the seat he lost to her in 2020 but fell short in one of the city’s most Republican districts.

“One election alone does not define the trajectory of this country,” said Rose in his concessions speech. Swastikas were drawn on some of Rose’s campaign signs in the weeks leading up to election day.

Rep. Sean Maloney, the Democratic incumbent in New York’s 17th District, trailed Republican Mike Lawler in a Rockland County area with a large haredi Orthodox community. President Joe Biden involved himself in this race, calling Hasidic leader Rabbi David Twersky and urging support for Maloney. The president’s intervention suggested how seriously Democrats were taking the Republican surge in the state and the power of the Orthodox vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hochul was seen campaigning through New York City, starting her morning in the Upper East Side and later meeting voters in Woodside, Queens with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was also reelected to represent parts of the Bronx and Queens in District 14.

Hochul also went to Fort Greene in Brooklyn for a rally with Attorney General Letitia James, who won her bid for re-election. James had initially planned to run for governor against Hochul, but dropped out of the race to stay on as the state’s chief legal officer.

At the crowded 86th Street subway station on the Upper East Side, Hochul shook hands, talked with toddlers, pet some dogs and schmoozed with other Jewish elected officials in the area, including Nadler and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

In a press conference with reporters, Hochul said that the difference between her and Zeldin are “sound bites versus sound policy.”

“It’s really easy to get out there and stand on a street corner and scream about crime,” Hochul said before citing Zeldin’s voting record against gun-safety legislation. “We’re working on it, he talks about it.”

Levine told the New York Jewish Week that the Jewish community that he represents “cares about democracy.”

“This is a community that cares about safety, but wants actual policies, not just incendiary sound bites,” said Levine. “I am really confident that Kathy Hochul is going to win big in Manhattan.”

A Jewish senior citizen voter at a polling place just a few blocks away said that she was voting because of abortion rights, the economy and rising antisemitism.

“The people who I voted for will be the best in recognizing and not glossing over the antisemitism in our city,” said the voter, who asked not to be identified and did not want to say who she voted for.

In Borough Park, Brooklyn, a Chassidic enclave that generally leans conservative and has favored Zeldin throughout the campaign, multiple polling stations were reported to be overflowing with voters.

At a polling place on 16th Avenue, every voter who spoke to the New York Jewish Week said they were voting for Zeldin.

Ira Marco, a Chassidic Jewish voter who was born and raised in Borough Park, said the Republican candidate’s message was “resonating more with the locals.”

“People here want revenge on what they feel as system that is broken,” said Marco. “Everyone here feels that the ball game is not an equal ball game.”

In the end, however, the incumbent Hochul had the advantage. New York City Mayor Eric Adams congratulated her in a tweet, calling the governor his “partner.”

Said Adams: “Tonight, women and girls across the Empire State have seen another glass ceiling shattered — and the best is yet to come.”

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