UPDATE: Kathy Hochul was declared the winner in the New York governor’s race by the Associated Press early Wednesday morning. For the latest updates on the race, click here.
NEW YORK (PIX11) — The race for New York’s governor remained too close to call early on Wednesday, though Gov. Kathy Hochul declared victory late Tuesday night.
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the race as of early Wednesday. Though many expected an easy victory for Hochul, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin narrowed the gap between them in the polls in the days before the election.
It’s been decades since New Yorkers have elected a Republican as governor and the state has two times more registered Democrats than it does Republicans, but Zeldin’s surge in the polls led to a surprisingly competitive race.
As of 12:15 a.m Wednesday, Hochul had 54% of the vote compared to Zeldin’s 45% with 71 percent of precincts reporting.
“You made me the first woman ever elected to be the governor of the state of New York, but I’m not here to make history, I’m here to make a difference,” Hochul said when she declared victory late Tuesday. “And because of all of you, we’ll keep making progress, breaking down barriers, breaking grass ceilings, helping New York achieve the greatness it is capable of.”
Zeldin refused to concede defeat early Wednesday. He said he was waiting for additional voting results to come in.
“We hope that as these results come in that we’ll be able to prevail,” he said.
That Democrats were left playing defense and scrambling to shore up an incumbent even in a blue state like New York is a drastic marker of the party’s growing fears that Tuesday’s midterm elections may deliver a wave of Republican victories around the country. Democrats are facing national headwinds in this year’s midterm elections as the party in power, which typically bears the brunt of voter frustrations.
This year, those frustrations include stubborn inflation and a shaky economy, but in New York, Zeldin has channeled fears over crime to open up a potential path to victory. Zeldin currently represents parts of Long Island in Congress.
If Zeldin wins, he plans to declare a crime emergency in New York on his first day in office. He also intends to get rid of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Zeldin also plans to suspend cashless bail and work with lawmakers on a permanent fix during the suspension.
Crime has also been a big focus for Hochul. During her time in office, bail reform laws were tweaked amid criticism. Restrictions around guns were signed into law after a deadly Buffalo supermarket shooting and a Supreme Court ruling overturned historical rules around firearms in New York. Those laws currently face challenges in the court, which Hochul said she expected.
Hochul took over as governor in 2021 after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. If she wins, she’d be the first woman elected to serve as New York’s governor.
It’s not clear how much longer it will take before the race is called. New York has a mandatory recount provision that kicks in if the margin of victory is 20 votes or less, is less than 0.5% or, in a contest where over 1 million ballots are cast, is less than 5,000 votes.