Gov. Kathy Hochul’s pay-to-play scandal gets worse by the day. Just this week, we learned Digital Gadgets’ owner held a fundraiser for her the month before making a deal to sell the state COVID tests at twice other vendors’ price.
The corruption is clear. But perhaps you’ve decided to set that aside because you’re excited about Hochul’s plans to cut crime and boost the state’s anemic economy as a record number of New Yorkers flee to Florida — and take their tax contributions with them.
Impossible. Because Hochul offers no plans, only platitudes, in stark contrast with her opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The candidates see very different stakes in November’s election. “Delivering Results For New York State” is Hochul’s big sell. Those “results” have New Yorkers leaving. Zeldin, on the other hand, understands the urgency: “Save Our State,” he pleads.
Poll after poll has shown crime to be at the top of voters’ minds. So what are Hochul’s “priorities,” as she calls them, on “Public Safety & Justice”? Crushing the crime crisis isn’t one of them. She claims to be “committed to keeping our communities and families safe” but offers nothing to get them safe, let alone keep them safe. She simply trumpets enacting “legislation to further strengthen New York’s nation-leading gun laws” — which clearly aren’t keeping firearms out of criminals’ hands — and “directing tens of millions of dollars in grants” to “reduce firearm-related incidents through mediation, mentoring, and community engagement.”
Zeldin’s “Securing Our Streets” platform is refreshingly specific. He’d “repeal cashless bail” and the Less Is More Act and amend Raise the Age “to give judges more discretion.” He’d also give “judges discretion when setting bail.”
As he’s repeatedly declared, he won’t stand for prosecutors who won’t do their jobs. “My first act on my first day in office is telling the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, that he’s going to be fired,” he reiterated this week. The governor has the power; Hochul refuses to use it.
Close to crime in voters’ concerns is the economy. New York’s unemployment rate is 4.7%, a point higher than the national average — and New York City’s is a stunning 6.6%. The state is spending more money even as a recession looms (if it hasn’t already arrived).
What does Hochul have to offer here? More taxpayer money. Her platform lists her “historic investments in advancing New York’s economy recovery,” “hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery assistance” and “increased support for teachers and health care workers.” There’s not a word about creating a job-friendly environment that will attract businesses to employ people here.
When she met with The Post editorial board at her six-month mark, Hochul bragged, “In my spare time, guys, I go to places like I’m a business recruiter. I like to make deals.” Little did we know she meant deals for donors. Hochul spent her entire political capital in Albany’s budget talks on securing a sweetheart stadium deal for the Buffalo Bills’ Florida-based owners — giving up the opportunity to make real fixes to bail “reform” and do something for city schoolkids seeing heartbreaking learning losses.
Zeldin knows you can’t throw money at “an equitable recovery” and union pals to fix a flagging economy. Again, he brings the particulars Hochul won’t: “cutting taxes across the board, slashing job-killing regulations” and more. He’ll work to make fracking legal again and approve new pipelines, creating jobs and bringing down energy costs that are set to spike again this winter.
Parental rights have proven an important factor in elections nationwide this past year. Hochul “plans to invest an additional $2.1 billion in New York’s public schools to increase the number of school teachers, bus drivers, and support staff.” New York schools are already well funded — $24,040 per pupil, the highest in the country and nearly twice the $12,520 national average — yet that money hasn’t gotten results, as proficiency tests show.
Zeldin vows he’s “Fighting for Our Kids” rather than teachers’ unions. He’d “encourage more parental involvement in education,” ban “divisive curriculum that pits children against one another based on race,” give “tax credits for school choice” and — crucial in the city — “lift the cap on charter schools.”
Hochul has the chutzpah to include a “Transparency & Accountability” section in her platform — a promise she has already broken.
Zeldin vows to deliver “accountability for the Cuomo-Hochul administration’s deadly nursing home order and coverup” and strengthen the Freedom of Information Law.
It’s no wonder Hochul continues to put off agreeing to debates — until finally, begrudgingly, she agreed to just one. How can she answer Zeldin on the issues? Her ads don’t offer a positive platform either. She has exactly one issue that she brings up against Zeldin: abortion. But we all know New York’s laws protecting abortion rights, some of the strongest in the nation, won’t change if Zeldin becomes governor.
New York is facing crises on every front. One candidate understands that and has serious plans to confront them. The other has her head in the sand and her hands in everyone’s pockets. The choice is clear.
Kelly Jane Torrance is The Post’s op-ed editor. Twitter: @KJTorrance