The 2022 race for New York governor wound up being the closest contest the state has seen for that office since George Pataki unseated Mario Cuomo in 1994.
In the end, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul won a full term of her own, defeating Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, becoming the first woman ever elected to the office and the first upstate governor in 100 years.
According to the latest unofficial vote tallies from the state Board of Elections, Hochul received 2,957,602 votes to Zeldin’s 2,666,065. That’s a 5.6-point margin of victory for Hochul.
Four years ago, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo won his third term against Republican Marc Molinaro by 24 points.
So what made it close?
For one, Hochul underperformed compared to Cuomo’s 2018 raw vote total by half a million votes while Zeldin received more votes than Molinaro.
Like any Democrat needs to do to win statewide, Hochul ran up the margins in New York City, getting over 81% of the vote in Manhattan and over 76% of the vote in the Bronx. She also did well in the Westchester County northern suburb area and won the traditional upstate counties home to the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Ithaca. She actually won more total votes in her native Erie County than Cuomo did four years ago.
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Zeldin’s powerhouse was his native Long Island. Not only did he flip Suffolk and Nassau counties red, he won them by 17 points and 11 points respectively. Zeldin also received about 76,000 more votes in each county than did Marc Molinaro.
Zeldin also dominated in Staten Island, winning by over 30 points in the borough that Cuomo had won by 1.5 points in 2018. Consequently, it was the county with the biggest swing in the state from four years ago.
Zeldin was also able to flip Rockland County just north of New York City, winning it by 12 points, according to the latest numbers.
But Hochul was also able, at this juncture, to flip two Republican counties, both in the Capital Region – Columbia and Schenectady.
Schenectady County was also the closest county, with Hochul winning it 50.04% to Zeldin’s 48.98%.
Zeldin’s best winning margin came in rural Lewis County in northern New York, where he got 81% of the vote to Hochul's 18%, getting a net gain of about 6,000 votes. Wyoming and Orleans counties, in Western New York, gave Zeldin margins of 79% and 75%.
One of the visual takeaways from this governor’s race is the deep sea of red that upstate New York continues to be. With an upstate native in the executive mansion and numerous Spectrum News 1/Siena College polls from different congressional districts showing Hochul and Zeldin near tied in those regions, it was wondered whether Hochul could pick off some of the more conservative areas of the state, especially since in this contest the Republican nominee was from downstate. Andrew Cuomo won numerous rural counties of upstate during his first campaign in 2010, but his 2014 and 2018 re-election bids showed a map similar to Hochul’s in 2022.