Alyssa Schukar and Jeenah Moon/The New York Times

In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) faces off against Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).

November 2, 2022

Cornellians Vote in Battleground Elections — Part 1: New York

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With this year’s election day fast approaching, Cornell students and alumni will be voting in elections across the nation from New York to Hawaiʻi. This is the first article in a series highlighting the students and alumni who are voting in New York State elections. Read Part two, covering the Great Lakes Region, here, and Part three, covering student-voter concerns and issues, here.

Cornell students hail from nearly every state in the country and Washington, D.C., meaning that this year, many students will be voting in federal and state elections categorized as tossups, meaning either party stands a good chance of winning.

Each state sets its own schedule for gubernatorial elections. For example, New York is voting in its gubernatorial election this year, while Virginia’s election in 2021 saw Republican Glenn Youngkin defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe. 

However, the federal government determines the process for congressional elections: In every even year, every seat in the House of Representatives and one third of Senate seats are up for election.

As a surprise battleground state, New York State features several close elections. In the 19th district, which includes Ithaca, two new candidates are running: Josh Riley (D) and Marc Molinaro (R). The most recent Siena College poll has Riley leading Molinaro 46 percent to 41 percent. Riley also outraises and outspends Molinaro, which typically leads to victory in congressional elections, according to campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.

“I plan on voting for Josh Riley. As a registered democrat who grew up in a very liberal environment, Josh Riley seems the obvious choice for me,” said Henry Sigel ’25, who is from Ithaca.

In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) faces off against Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.). Currently, Hochul leads Zeldin 50 percent to 46 percent in recent polls. Though pundits have generally predicted that Hochul will win, President Joe Biden won New York with a 23.1 percent lead over former President Donald Trump. Hochul’s mere four percent lead is therefore uncharacteristic for historically Democratic New York.

Syracusean Avery Bower ’23 plans to support Zeldin in the gubernatorial race.

“I’m supporting Lee Zeldin because he is willing to address the reality of Albany’s policies, unlike Kathy Hochul,” Bower said. “There comes a time when you have spent too much time in the corruption of Albany and grow unable to see what issues are actually affecting New Yorkers instead of the ones special interests and their lobbyists tell you to be concerned about.”

Sigel plans to vote for Hochul. 

“She is not my ideal candidate, but she is far better than the alternative, the pro-Trump Lee Zeldin,” he said.

Prominent politicians from both parties have descended upon New York in recent weeks to campaign for their candidate. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) — currently under national scrutiny for tricking undocumented immigrants into getting on flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. — appeared at a rally for Zeldin on Long Island, according to The New York Times. Former President Bill Clinton appeared at a rally in Rockland County and former President Barack Obama recorded a radio ad in support of Hochul.

In the Oct. 25 gubernatorial debate, both candidates emphasized key issues to their constituents. Hochul highlighted Zeldin’s opposition to abortion and his vote to overturn the 2020 election.

“You’re the only person standing on this stage whose name right now — not years past — that right now, is on a bill called ‘Life Begins at Conception,’” Hochul said during the recorded debate.

Meanwhile, Zeldin stressed crime reduction, threatening once again to unilaterally dismiss the democratically elected Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg — the first Black person to hold the office.

Sigel and Bower have taken similar positions, also choosing abortion and crime as their top issues for this year’s election.

“Abortion rights are one of the most important issues for me in this election cycle. Protecting basic human rights is a priority and the right of choice seems to me to be a right,” Sigel said. “Personal choice must be allowed to prevail in the right to abortion, and the state government cannot be allowed to tell people what to do with their bodies.”