Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, faced off on Spectrum News NY1 Tuesday in their only scheduled debate. The two candidates clashed over public safety, COVID-19 mandates and former U.S. President Donald Trump.

From the very start, Hochul and Zeldin disagreed not only on public policy but also on substance and style.

What You Need To Know

  • Hochul and Zeldin squared off on Spectrum News NY1 in their first and only scheduled debate

  • The two candidates clashed on issues such as public safety, abortion and the economy

  • Recent polls show Zeldin catching up to Hochul, who had previously held a substantial lead

Hochul repeatedly tried to link Zeldin to Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York.

“You will see a great contrast here tonight between myself and my record, and someone who has been called one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters,” Hochul said. “He sent text messages trying to support the big lie. And he opposes sensible gun safety laws, as well as opposing a woman’s right to choose. That’s what on the line here tonight.”

But Zeldin brought up rising crime rates and population loss as reasons to change course and pull away from what he calls one party rule. Democrats currently control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

“The state is at a crossroads,” Zeldin said. “We were at a crossroads in 1994 when New York elected George Pataki and we are at a crossroads right now. Because their wallets, their safety, their freedom and their kids’ education is under attack.”

When it came to public safety, Zeldin claimed Hochul is not doing enough to keep dangerous criminals locked up. And he repeated that he would remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been criticized for being too lenient on crime.

“Alvin Bragg is not doing his job,” Zeldin said. “The message will absolutely be sent that if you are the DA, it stands for district attorney, not defense attorney. He can go be a defense attorney if he’s not going to do his job. But I am going to do my job and I’m going to remove him as soon as I can.”

But Zeldin’s answer to moderators Errol Louis and Susan Arbetter set Hochul up for one of the many quips she delivered throughout the debate.

“I’m not surprised because in Lee Zeldin’s world, you overturn elections you don’t agree with,” Hochul said. “You can’t throw out someone who is duly elected. Yes, I’ve worked with all our district attorneys and given them more power to do their jobs.”

On the economy, Zeldin said he favors reducing state spending and instead giving tax breaks to businesses to create new jobs.

“We have to bring spending in this state under control,” Zeldin said. “We’ve seen all these bailouts coming from the federal government and the state just decides that they are going to increase spending. And that creates a new baseline for spending next year. Well, what we have to do is have a state spending cap.”

“It’s so disingenuous to say that you want to create jobs when you, as a member of Congress, vote against everything that would create jobs,” Hochul responded. “You voted against the infrastructure bill. And that was bipartisan. You voted against the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Zeldin seemed very amped up early on, whereas Hochul was calmer. As the debate wore on, both were able to make their points and highlight just how far apart they are on most issues.