Hochul calls crime concerns a "conspiracy" as new poll shows dead heat in NY governor's race

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool

Kathy Hochul has been a terrible governor, especially when it comes to Second Amendment issues, but the truth is she’s also a pretty horrible candidate. Even in a “red wave” electoral environment, New York’s a blue bastion for Democrats given that they outnumber registered Republicans by 2-1, but several recent polls have shown GOP challenger Lee Zeldin closing the gap on Hochul as Election Day looms closer. Now a new survey from Trafalgar has found Zeldin with a slight lead over Hochul, 48.4% to 47.6%.

The methodology of the poll features a robust sample size of nearly 1,200 likely voters, and seems in line with the state’s political demographics; 53.6% of respondents identify as a Democrat, while 27.5% identify as Republican. Still, despite the large advantage for Hochul in terms of party identification, she’s clearly not sealing the deal with a sizable portion of her fellow Dems. Why? In part, it’s because she keeps saying stupid things like this.

Gov. Kathy Hochul insisted in a new interview that Americans’ rising fear about crime has been manufactured by “master manipulators” in a national “conspiracy” ahead of Election Day — and that her opponent Lee Zeldin and other Republican critics are “data deniers.”

Hochul made the startling comments on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” Sunday, as her lead in the polls slipped and New Yorkers’ fear of rampant crime continued to escalate.

“These are master manipulators. They have this conspiracy going all across America trying to convince people in Democratic states that they’re not as safe. Well guess what? They’re also not only election deniers, they’re data deniers,” she told the show’s host, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“Safer places are the Democratic states,” she claimed, in an apparent reference to what fellow Democrat, California Gov. Gavin Newsom labeled “America’s red state murder problem.”

But Rafael Mangual, of the Manhattan Institute, has noted that trope ignores the fact that in many of those GOP-led states, the crime stats are driven by large, Democrat-led cities, citing New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport in Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi among his examples.

And while murders were down by 14% in New York City over the summer compared with last year, all other major crimes surged — including a 33% rise in robberies, police statistics show.

In the past couple of months the Democratic messaging on crime has ranged from “gun control is crime control” to denying that there’s a problem with violent crime at all. Concerns over personal safety have become a top issue for voters in many states, including New York, but Hochul’s been much more interested in preventing responsible citizens from protecting themselves or their families by ramming a host of new (and unconstitutional) restrictions on the right to carry. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have applied for their concealed carry licenses since the Supreme Court struck down the state’s “may issue” carry laws earlier this year, and Hochul and her fellow Democrats seem far more alarmed by the thought of people exercising their right to armed self-defense than they are with the rise in many major crimes.

Even some lefties are starting to despair over Democratic messaging and the inability or unwillingness to recognize the concerns of voters. Center for American Progress fellow Brian Katulis, for instance, says Democrats are doing a terrible job of talking about the economy and inflation, but also dings Dems for ignoring what’s on the minds of many voters.

Democrats continue to bleed working-class voters, and for much of this cycle Democratic candidates haven’t talked about working-class concerns.  Instead, they’ve focused on abortion rights, gun control, and safeguarding democracy, all important issues with some connection to working-class voters. But this narrative hasn’t connected with these voters on a level that matters.

Belatedly, some Democratic voices have woken up and reminded candidates that the party needs to convince voters the party cares about their economic well-being, as if offering this insight less than three weeks before the election will matter. We’ll see.

Entering the homestretch of the midterms, President Biden and Democrats have taken to reminding people how Republicans will increase costs for American families, an eleventh-hour attempt that’s important to try but probably hard to convince people with as inflation hit a 40-year high this year.

Add to these economic woes the challenges of crime, with a record-high 56% of U.S. adults reporting they think crime has increased where they live, and the makings of a “change” election are present in America today.

Even in New York, where it’s been two decades since a Republican won statewide office. If Hochul does indeed go down to defeat on Election Day, her continued attacks on the right to keep and bear arms while casually dismissing concerns about violent criminals will be one of the main factors. Right now the RealClearPolitics polling average still shows Hochul with a lead of about 4 points over Zeldin, but with the Democrat spending the waning days of her campaign palling around with anti-gun activists like Shannon Watts and touting her criminalization of the right to carry, I think Zeldin has a real chance to pull off a huge political upset one week from today.