NEW YORK (PIX11) — With less than two weeks to go before New Yorkers cast their vote for who they want to be the state’s next leader in the gubernatorial primary, Republican candidates for governor sat down with PIX11 News to talk crime, the economy, school safety, abortion and more.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, businessman and moderate Republican Harry Wilson and Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, joined PIX11 for a forum Tuesday night. Zeldin commands a lead in the race with 34% of the vote in exclusive PIX11 polling, conducted in partnership with The Hill and Emerson College Polling.
Whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination faces an uphill battle in the general election. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than two to one in New York.
Here are five takeaways from PIX11’s GOP gubernatorial forum:
Crime and policing:
Policing in New York would change under all of the Republican candidates. Zeldin would repeal a number of reforms made in recent years. Astorino has backed the controversial stop, question, and frisk policing tactic. Giuliani wants to pump $5 billion into the state police force. Wilson wants to get illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals and break down the Iron Pipeline.
Zeldin, Astorino and Giuliani are against abortion rights. New York has already codified abortion rights, but state lawmakers recently signed additional protections into law. Giuliani said that he would repeal some of those laws. Astorino called for compromise from Democratic lawmakers along with a greater emphasis on adoption and funding for pregnancy care centers. Wilson stands apart from his opponents; he describes himself as “pro-abortion rights.”
Economy and inflation:
Wilson, Zeldin and Astorino all told PIX11 they want to cut taxes. Astorino said he’d slash taxes in a “dramatic fashion,” but didn’t share a percentage or dollar amount. Wilson, who wants to cut both income and property taxes, said he’d also look at repealing regulations that drive up costs on food, housing and utilities. When asked about the burden of inflation, Giuliani did not address tax rates. He did say he would look at natural gas, shale and nuclear power in New York as a way of cutting down on energy prices.
Prosecutors in New York:
The lineup of district attorneys in New York could see a shakeup under some of the Republican candidates. Specifically, Giuliani said he would fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his first day in office. Astorino would also remove Bragg and other district attorneys if they don’t choose to prosecute some charges. He noted the governor’s ability to remove district attorneys from office should be used very rarely.
Bringing a Republican to the governor’s office:
The candidates feel they’re the right person to bring Republican leadership back to New York. State residents haven’t voted a Republican governor into office since George Pataki in the mid-90s. Zeldin feels timing has kept conservatives out of New York’s top office. The candidates running now all feel New York is on the wrong track. Giuliani said the system in Albany is “fully broken” and needs a reset. Wilson said his focus on results rather than rhetoric will entice Democrats. Astorino’s past leading Westchester County, with its diverse populace, makes him suited to running New York, he said.
What’s next in the elections:
Democratic voters will also get a chance to hear from Gov. Kathy Hochul and the candidates facing off against her in the Democratic primary. Hochul has a large lead, with 57% of the votes in the most recent PIX11 poll. She’s facing challenges from Congressman Tom Suozzi, who was the top choice of 17% of polled voters, and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who garnered 6% of the vote. One-fifth of Democratic voters remain undecided.
The Democratic forum will air on Saturday, June 25. Viewers can tune in to PIX11 or PIX11.com to watch at 8 p.m.