New York Gov. Kathy Hochul gave an impassioned speech at a rally at Barnard College on Nov. 3, in the course of which she repeatedly portrayed her Republican opponent in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election, Lee Zeldin, as a MAGA-style Republican extremist who seeks to roll back so-called hard-won rights in the areas of reproductive freedom, voting, civil rights, and gun control.

References to an issue of overriding concern to many New Yorkers and to Americans in general, namely violent crime, were almost entirely absent from Hochul’s 12-minute address.

Hochul, who was never elected to her current position but ascended to the governor’s office from her role as lieutenant governor, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment, spoke before an enthusiastic crowd on the campus of Barnard College in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.

Preceding her onstage were an array of highly prominent women in Democratic politics, including New York Attorney General Letitia James, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and former Secretary of State and two-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also took the stage to deliver remarks in support of Hochul’s campaign. Following Hochul’s talk, Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage and delivered a lengthy speech in support of reelecting Hochul on Nov. 8.

“I personally am thrilled that we’re going to have Vice President Harris with us,” Clinton said, before going on to acknowledge her fellow Democrats in attendance.

“This election is one that has such far-reaching repercussions, and I think you know that, that’s why you’re here, but I am going to ask you, get out after today’s rally and literally get everybody you know to turn out and vote early or on Tuesday. … I’ve known Kathy Hochul for a long time, we worked together, and I really appreciate the way she is bringing leadership and stability and hope for our future to New York,” Clinton said.

“As lieutenant governor, she has crisscrossed New York, literally giving to every single county and a lot of the towns and villages and hamlets within them, bringing all kinds of good ideas, bringing people together. But this election, like every election, is a choice, and it’s not just a choice between two candidates, it is a choice about two very different ideas about who we are as a state and a country, and how we should work together, or not, and what kind of future we want for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren,” she added.

“Lee Zeldin, Kathy’s opponent, along with Donald Trump and their allies, are literally fighting tooth and nail to turn back the clock. … They’ve spent 50 years trying to make that happen, they want to turn back to the clock on women’s rights in general, on civil rights, on gay rights, on voting rights, they are determined to exercise control over who we are, how we feel and be and act in ways that I thought we had all left behind,” Clinton continued.

Hochul’s speech was full of rhetoric about carrying on the struggle for rights undertaken by suffragists in the 19th century, and explicitly characterized candidate Zeldin’s support for overturning Roe v. Wade and handing jurisdiction over the legality of abortions back to the states as an attack on women’s rights and an effort to regress to a time in America when civil liberties were the domain of the privileged few. Hochul barely discussed or acknowledged the importance to voters of any issues other than abortion.

Living in the Past

Making reference to the Seneca Falls Convention in New York state in 1848 that discussed and approved extending suffrage to women, Hochul described the gathering at Barnard as an event in a similar spirit.

“Three hundred people fought their way to a place that became the intersection of rights. Native American rights, abolitionists, women’s rights—it all came together in this small community in upstate New York. You need to go there!”

Hochul continued with a largely symbolic discussion of the legacy she said that she and Hillary Clinton had inherited as pioneers of women’s rights.

“Those women back then were so brave and so audacious, they went against the tides of their time, they were ridiculed and spit upon and jailed because they had the audacity to say, ‘We have rights.’ … And if you read the declaration, it’s written on the wall, and you can feel their disdain, dripping from every word: ‘We are sick and tired of being the property of men. We want to have a chance to be free, we want to vote.’ And that happened nowhere else but right here in the state of New York.”

Hochul went on with an account of past activism, making no reference to current issues and problems in the state in which she seeks election as governor.

“We finally achieved that goal that was so elusive for so long. When it came to other rights, reproductive freedom, the right to decide whether you could make a decision about your own body, New York, again, was three years ahead of the rest of the nation. … And I’ve always been proud of the fact that we’ve led these movements: women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights—it all started nowhere else but in our state.”

“They not only passed down a gift, they passed us a torch. Today, we hold that torch in our hands, and it’s up to us, who will be judged by generations years from now, who look back at this time and say, ‘What happened in 2022?’”

Hochul’s Priorities

Hochul then issued a warning about socially conservative, anti-abortion “extremists” who would strip away hard-won rights “when complacency sets in.”

“Friends, it’s up to us … We march to the polls … to stand up for future generations and say, ‘We will protect the right to an abortion in this state, right here and right now and forever!’”

Hochul went on to criticize her opponent Rep. Zeldin (R-N.Y.) for having suggested that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had not fundamentally changed the status of abortion rights in New York, even though it overturned Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a federal right to legal abortion in all 50 states. This portion of Hochul’s talk drew some of the wildest applause from the largely undergraduate audience.

One of the points of contention between Zeldin and Hochul during their Oct. 25 debate was what Zeldin sees as Hochul’s lack of concern about crime in the city and state. In his opening statement, Zeldin told voters, “You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies.”

References to the issue consistently cited by New Yorkers as a leading concern—violent crime—were almost entirely absent from Hochul’s 12-minute speech.

Nowhere in her talk did Hochul make any mention of the fact that crime in New York City has risen sharply in several categories compared to the same period a year ago, according to New York Police Department figures, with rape up 15.8 percent, robbery up 1.7 percent, and burglary up 8.9 percent. Hochul did not discuss, or even acknowledge, numerous recent incidents that have stirred alarm among New Yorkers over rising crime, such as the pushing of a 32-year-old man, David Martin, onto subway tracks in Bushwick, Brooklyn, by a total stranger whom the victim said he barely saw in the moments before the attack. Martin was taking the subway to work as per his routine and the attack reportedly was completely unprovoked.

Nor did Hochul mention recent incidents of violent crime affecting Zeldin himself and his family, namely the attack on Zeldin at a campaign stop in upstate New York in July and a report of gunfire last month outside Zeldin’s Long Island home, which led to his daughters calling the police.

The only specific crime Hochul mentioned was the May 14, 2022, mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets outlet in Buffalo, New York, by a man who identified himself as a white supremacist, killing ten people and injuring three. Hochul described the attacker as an extremist who had become radicalized on social media, and implicitly drew a link between this radicalization and the rhetoric used by so-called MAGA Republicans such as her opponent in the gubernatorial race.

Vox Populi

Some who turned out to support the rally were more explicitly concerned with reproductive rights. Kristy Mendoza, a Barnard undergraduate from Texas, cited the Dobbs decision and its ramifications for her home state as motivating factors in her attendance of the rally.

“This is my first time voting, actually,” Mendoza said. “I wanted to see Kamala Harris. I’m a Democrat, so I wanted to see them. I’m from Texas, and [the Supreme Court decision on] abortion, and Roe v. Wade, it was very impactful, and I think it just makes things a lot worse, especially with access to health care. … The state and the country just hindering us from doing that, and making it much harder for us to be well, I think it’s just absurd.”

“When Roe v. Wade was overturned, our college decided to meet the demand for reproductive and contraceptive devices, and I feel like having the women’s rally here, that shows the significance of what [the issue] means to us,” concurred another Barnard student, Hannah Ramsey.

Hannah Ramsey (L) from Alabama and Kristy Mendoza from Texas stand outside Manhattan’s Barnard College in New York City on Nov. 3, 2022. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Others who turned out were more forthright about the severity of the crime problem, though they found aspects of Zeldin’s platform problematic.

“This is a very important election, even though the Democrats are failing on bail reform, because crime is very high, it is real, it is not made up. But at the same time, our rights as LGBTQ, and women’s rights, are in danger, because this guy, Lee Zeldin, is pro-Trump. That means Zeldin is anti-LGBTQ, anti-women’s rights,” said Dinick Martinez, who works as a dishwasher.

Epoch Times Photo
Dinick Martinez from Queens stands outside Manhattan’s Barnard College in New York City on Nov. 3, 2022. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Michael Washburn


Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers U.S. and China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We’re Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”

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