New York: Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin debate Trump, crime, abortion, immigration

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's campaign is trying to divert attention away from the crime wave in New York with the race closer than expected.

The candidates for governor of New York debated Tuesday with just two weeks remaining until the midterm elections. The Democratic candidate, current Governor Kathy Hochul, criticized her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, for being a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. Zeldin rebutted by pointing to the governor's ineffective policies regarding the economy, crime, health deficiencies and illegal immigration.

The debate comes as the Hochul campaign tries to divert attention away from the crime wave in New York with the race closer than expected. Republicans across the country are successfully challenging for what were once safe Democrat seats by pointing out issues like crime and safety. New York has not elected a Republican governor in 20 years.

"You are poorer because of Kathy Hochul"

"You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies. You deserve better," Zeldin said directly into the camera in his opening remarks. "Good to see you too, Lee," the governor quipped in her 60-second introduction.

Hochul sought to attack the congressman by associating him with former President Trump. She asked Zeldin directly: "Is Donald Trump a great president?" The governor prompted him to list Trump initiatives that he supported. Zeldin praised Trump's record on various policies, from the relationship with Israel, border control measures and pandemic response. "I'll take that as a resounding yes, and the voters of New York disagree with you," the Democrat responded.

The Republican highlighted the criticism Hochul has received since taking office following Andrew Coumo's resignation. One example was Hochul appointing a lieutenant governor who resigned over federal indictments for being involved in corruption schemes and bribery.

Zeldin accused the Democrat of "not taking New Yorkers' concerns" about rising crime and homicides seriously and vowed to repeal Democratic criminal justice reforms. He noted that Hochul has not done enough to address the state's high cost of living. He brought up his issues with the progressive approach to gun control, which is considered a "key public safety" issue and source of fear for people in the city:

Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul believes the only crimes that are being committed are these crimes with guns, but people who are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars. They’re being stabbed, they’re being beaten to death with hammers …. We need to be talking about all of these other crimes but instead Kathy Hochul was too busy patting herself on the back.

Immigration: do not "reward illegal entry"

Hochul criticized Zeldin's support for abortion restrictions, while the Republican pointed to the governor's sending of millions in federal funds to abortion providers to expand services to out-of-state patients. The Democrat retorted, called the Republican an "election denier" and a "climate change denier" as she continued to try to link him to Trump.

Hochul said she is working with President Joe Biden and New York Mayor Eric Adams to find solutions to the influx of illegal immigrants and is open to hearing bipartisan solutions. "I don’t really think I could get through in a rational way to the governor of Texas, but if all of you think I should make the call I will." Zeldin stated that, if elected, he will call on Biden to further secure the southern borders from drugs and to "stop incentivizing and rewarding illegal entry."

In the lightning round of the debate, Hochul said she would like Joe Biden to run for re-election, citing the federal funds the president has sent to the state during his tenure. Zeldin, on the other hand, said he is "not even thinking about that" when asked if he would like Trump to run again in 2024.