An upset could be brewing in the Empire State.
Kathy Hochul (D.), the incumbent Governor of New York, has now fallen behind her Republican challenger less than a week from election day, according to a new poll from the Trafalgar Group. The poll, released Monday, has Representative Lee Zeldin (R.) up 48.4 percent to 47.6 percent over Hochul among likely voters.
The Trafalgar results arrive just as gun policy has started to play a more prominent role in the race, with Hochul looking to leverage the issue as a way to fend off Zeldin’s attacks on her handling of crime in the state. If Hochul loses, it will seriously call into question the strategy of linking gun control with addressing crime, as many prominent gun-control groups have called for.
The poll findings mark the first time a pollster has found Hochul to be trailing at any point in the race thus far, pointing to a surprisingly competitive race heading into election day next week. She consistently enjoyed a double-digit lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average over Zeldin throughout the Summer until mid-October. The average currently sits at under 5 points, and the site now rates the race a toss-up.
This is all despite the fact that a Republican has not been elected Governor of New York since 2002.
Zeldin, currently representing the state’s First Congressional district, has been making inroads with voters of late by campaigning heavily on crime. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that New York voters overwhelmingly consider crime their number one election issue. It polled eight points higher than inflation, the second most cited issue in the poll, and fourteen points higher than protecting democracy, the third.
Hochul has pivoted to making gun control the centerpiece of her pitch to voters for how she plans to address public safety, even as she has downplayed voters’ concern over crime.
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s reckless decision on concealed carry, we took swift action to strengthen our gun safety laws,” she said. “It is my job to keep people safe, and I’m not backing down on this — not now, not ever.”
Zeldin has not campaigned heavily on the issue of gun rights, but he has not shied away from it either. His campaign website features a commitment to “protecting your right to self-defense” and “repealing the unconstitutional SAFE Act,”–an expansive gun control law passed in 2013 requiring registration of so-called assault weapons and prohibiting commonly owned ammunition magazines.
He publicly celebrated the Supreme Court’s overturning of New York’s previous may-issue standard for concealed carry permits and has called the replacement law signed by Hochul “even more unconstitutional than the last” during a debate with his opponent.
Two separate federal judges have ruled major provisions of the law likely unconstitutional in court since the law’s passage. Those cases are still ongoing.
The Trafalgar Group is a Republican-affiliated pollster, but it has an A- rating from FiveThirtyEight. The group’s poll surveyed 1198 likely voters. It was conducted between October 27 and October 31 and has a margin of error of +/-2.9 percent.