NY Gov. Hochul rips Rep. Lee Zeldin over his defense of far-right Long Island Loud Majority political group

ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images North America/TNS

NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday ripped her Republican rival, Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island, after he declined to denounce a far-right, pro-Trump political group.

“I would just say it’s important to meet some of these people,” Zeldin said when asked about the group, the Long Island Loud Majority, and whether he condemns extremists in an interview with WNYW-TV published Wednesday.

The Long Island Loud Majority has supported Zeldin in his surprisingly competitive bid to topple Hochul, a Democrat. He appeared to express doubt that the group is made up of “right-wing” extremists.

Hochul charged that Zeldin’s defense of the group amounted to a “refusal to call out white supremacists,” adding that her rival had shown New Yorkers “who the real Lee Zeldin is.”

“He had a chance today to stand up and call out the hatred, the bigotry and the violent behavior of so many people — and he refused,” Hochul said at a news conference in Midtown Manhattan.

The Long Island Loud Majority, which is labeled as an “extreme antigovernment” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zeldin has tacked to the center during the campaign, downplaying his anti-abortion positions and an endorsement he received last month from former President Donald Trump.

The congressman voted to overturn the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden, but has since described Biden’s victory as legitimate. (He has stood by his vote against certifying the election.)

He has also fund-raised with Trump during the campaign, but he has tried to steer the conversation away from the former president and toward crime rates that have climbed over the last year.

His platform includes pledges to cut taxes and to suspend bail reforms through a crime emergency declaration.

“People are hitting their breaking point and fleeing the state because their wallets, their safety, their freedom, the quality of their kids’ education are under attack,” Zeldin, 42, told Fox News on Wednesday.

Although the 64-year-old Hochul is seen as the front-runner in New York, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1, recent public opinion polls have shown her lead dwindling to single digits.

She has responded by rushing to solidify her standing in Democrat-rich New York City, dropping into a dizzying array of events across the city, from the Bronx to southeast Queens.

On Thursday morning, she headlined a clergy breakfast in a ballroom at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel, joining Democratic leaders to implore faith leaders to push their parishioners to the polls.

“We have to stand up and stop the insanity of gun violence here in the State of New York,” Hochul, who has toughened New York’s gun laws, said at the breakfast. “I know our churches are vulnerable places.”

The breakfast also included fiery remarks from a lineup of Democrats, including state Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“This is a good old-fashioned battle,” Adams said of the Nov. 8 election. “We have to give the Republicans a good old-fashioned butt whooping.”

Hochul, New York’s first female governor, was scheduled to hold a rally in Morningside Heights on Thursday evening with two of the most prominent women in American politics: Hillary Clinton and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Zeldin was set to hold an evening rally in the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, south of Albany, with Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican whose district covers the northeastern reaches of New York.

Election Day is Tuesday.