New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday sought to position herself as a line of defense against restricting access to abortion in the state as the campaign enters its final week.
Hochul's hope is the issue remains a motivating factor for turning out the base of the Democratic Party as the governor seeks election to a full, four-year term.
Abortion rights have been a key concern for Democratic voters following this summer's Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. While issues like inflation and the economy have moved to the top of polling for voters' issues, abortion rights remain a cornerstone for Democrats, especially women and suburban residents.
"The reason why abortion is protected in New York is because I am governor and Lee Zeldin is not," Hochul said during an interview with MSNBC of her Republican opponent.
She added a governor has "immense power" through regulations and the state budget process to affect abortion rights in the state.
Zeldin, a Long Island congressman, has said he would not try to make changes to the existing abortion law in New York through executive action, noting a Democratic-led Legislature would likely block any efforts to do so anyway.
"If you were trying to really get to the heart of why I'm even in this race, it's because of the economy and crime above all else," Zeldin said in September.
His campaign released a TV ad to underscore the point. While he said privately during the Republican primary he would be open to nominating a state health commissioner who opposes abortion, he has said since it would not be a "litmus test" for a nominee.
But Hochul and supporters of abortion rights have been skeptical of Zeldin's pushback, comparing it to Brett Kavanaugh's testimony to Congress during his Supreme Court confirmation that he consider the Roe ruling settled law, only to side with the majority in overturning it.
Hochul has also used her campaign's considerable resources to blanket the airwaves highlighting the issue for voters over the last several weeks, including Zeldin's sponsorship of anti-abortion measures in Congress.
New York has robust abortion laws already on the books.
State lawmakers and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019 approved the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that expanded and strengthened existing abortion laws on the books. In the lead-up to the Supreme Court ruling this summer, Hochul and state lawmakers added further protections.
Hochul also committed money to Planned Parenthood to help them expand their facilities and security in the expectation women from states where abortion access is being restricted would come to New York seeking the procedure.
The governor positioning herself as a bulwark for abortion rights in a heavily Democratic state is not a new strategy for a statewide candidate. Cuomo in 2014 and 2018 sought to shore up his standing with Democratic voters by pointing to his support for abortion access -- and contrasting that with his Republican opponents' opposition.