There won’t be an upset tonight in the Empire State.
Democrat Kathy Hochul will retain her seat as the Governor of New York. Multiple news outlets have called the race for Hochul, though a sizable portion of the vote is still outstanding as of early Wednesday morning. Hochul took to Twitter to declare victory late Tuesday night.
“I’m deeply honored to be elected Governor of the State of New York,” her account tweeted.
The victory pours cold water on GOP hopes for a surprise victory in a state where they have not held the Governor’s mansion since 2006. Hochul’s Republican challenger Lee Zeldin surged in the polls late in the race after trailing by double digits for most of the campaign. A Trafalgar poll from earlier this month showed Zeldin leading in the race by less than a point, and election forecaster RealClearPolitics had moved the race to a “toss-up” less than a week out from election day.
While not primarily centered on gun policy, the race saw the issue take a more significant role than in many other races down the home stretch. As polls appeared to show Zeldin making gains with voters over his messaging on crime, Hochul sought to elevate her actions on gun control as a rebuttal. The results suggest the tactic may have paid off for her, though the final margin in the race will be necessary to determine the impact of the race on gun politics.
During the only gubernatorial debate between the two candidates, Hochul championed her recent record of getting gun-control laws passed during a debate segment dedicated to public safety.
“After the horrific massacre in Buffalo that killed ten of my neighbors, I took immediate action to strengthen our Red Flag law and raise the age to buy an AR-15,” a tweet from Hochul’s account sent during the debate read. “This is what meaningful action against gun violence looks like.”
She tried to combat Zeldin’s tough-on-crime messaging by accusing Zeldin of being soft on public safety issues due to his support for gun rights.
“There are three things in life that are true: 1. The sun will rise. 2. The sun will set. 3. Lee Zeldin will oppose commonsense gun safety laws,” she said.
Zeldin did not make gun rights a centerpiece of his campaign, but he did not shy away from pro-gun positions.
He celebrated the Supreme Court overturning New York’s previous may-issue standard for concealed carry permits. He also called the replacement law signed by Hochul “even more unconstitutional than the last” during a debate with his opponent.
The law has since been subject to two separate injunctions from federal judges who have found broad swaths of its provisions unconstitutional.
Hochul’s win is the third for an incumbent among the three key gubernatorial races that have prominently featured gun policy. However, unlike wins for the Republican governors of Texas and Georgia, Hochul’s victory represents a bright spot on the night for gun-control advocates. How ballot initiatives on gun policy in Iowa and Oregon, as well as the battle for control of Congress, turn out will provide further insight into how guns impacted the midterms overall.