Democratic governor holds off Republican challenge in New York

New York, United States AFP

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the Democratic incumbent and the first woman to serve in the post, on Tuesday fended off a stiff challenge from Republican congressman Lee Zeldin to win election, US networks projected.

Hochul, who took office after scandal-hit Andrew Cuomo resigned in August 2021, bested Zeldin, an ally of former president Donald Trump who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

The projections from ABC and NBC showed Hochul with a healthy lead over Zeldin, who in recent weeks had surged in polling, triggering handwringing from Democrats that the race in New York — long considered a reliable stronghold for the left — might prove far more competitive than expected.

It was an eyebrow-raising development in a state where twice as many residents are registered as Democrats as Republicans.

Democrats flew in their heaviest hitters — including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the Clintons — for last-minute barnstorming on behalf of Hochul, 64.

Zeldin was extremely well-funded, particularly from the billionaire cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, who spent more than $11 million in support of the right-winger’s candidacy, including attack ads on Hochul.

But along with visits from the Democratic party’s top brass, it appeared a strong push from progressives had supported the city turnout Hochul needed to secure her win.

“We’re proud that the NYWFP played a critical role in defeating the extreme right and protecting our communities. Now, Governor Hochul must respond to the call of voters and truly deliver for working New Yorkers,” tweeted the left-wing Working Families Party, which maintains a ballot line in the state and this year endorsed Hochul.

Tuesday’s win for the Democrats also marks the first time New York state elected a woman to the governor’s mansion, as her previous time in the office was due to the resignation of Cuomo, whom she served under as lieutenant governor.

“I’m deeply honored to be elected Governor of the State of New York,” tweeted Hochul, a relatively conservative Democrat who hails from Republican-friendly upstate New York.

Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor who must work closely with the governor, heralded the news, saying that “history has been made!”

“Tonight, women and girls across the Empire State have seen another glass ceiling shattered.”

© Agence France-Presse