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Top One Magazine

Democrats are anxious about an unlikely battleground: New York City

No one believes Hochul — an upstate New York native who represented a district near Buffalo in Congress — will not beat Zeldin in the city, where Democrats routinely win local and national elections. But they are concerned he is generating more excitement in red neighborhoods, particularly since the only competitive congressional race on the ballot — incumbent Republican Nicole Malliotakis versus Democrat Max Rose — is in a GOP-leaning district that straddles Brooklyn and Staten Island.

There’s also an oft-repeated concern about turnout, particularly since Zeldin has broader support elsewhere in the state.

Democrats win statewide races due in large part to New York City voters. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo routed GOP challenger Marc Molinaro four years ago by winning handily in Brooklyn, which boasted the highest turnout of any county in the state — 608,728 votes, of which he won 524,080.

“I would hope that we would see a little bit more activity in my part of New York City, particularly because we do have some competitive races here, so voters are more engaged,” outgoing state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) said in an interview.

Hochul has continued to focus on her fundraising advantage, even personally phoning donors in recent weeks to collect more cash down the homestretch, according to two people with direct knowledge of the calls.

So far she has brought in a record amount for her campaign during her 14 months in office, outraising Zeldin $46.3 million to $17.9 million, according to campaign finance records released earlier this month. He has been boosted by more than $12 million in outside money spent on his behalf, largely from cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder. Hochul, by comparison, has not received that level of support from special interest groups.

“The billionaires are throwing millions into Zeldin’s campaign. So we’re one of the few organizations out there that can actually try to level the playing field,” said state teachers’ union president Andy Pallotta.

But inside Zeldin’s camp, the flood of cash has been a welcome sign.

“Just the idea of people being surprised at how good he is doing plays into the notion that around dinner tables and coffee shops, people are talking about how they’re accepting him as a candidate,” City Council Member Joe Borelli, a Republican working on a pro-Zeldin PAC, said in an interview this week. “You’ve never heard discussion of how good Donald Trump was doing in New York City because people weren’t having those conversations in their own personal lives.”

“People see that it’s within reach and it’s really a motivating factor,” Borelli added.

The candidates focused their efforts in the city this week with events flanking their single televised debate Tuesday night.

“We’re getting tremendous, intense, deep, real support from people who want to save New York City, they want to save New York State, and they realize that they have an opportunity two weeks from today,” Zeldin said as he prepared to ride the subway to the debate in Lower Manhattan.

The following day, he appeared alongside gas station owners in Queens to lament a rash of robberies in the area, while Hochul stumped with Rep. Nydia Velázquez and other city Democrats at a Brooklyn senior center across the city.

“The national headwinds are tough. Look at [New Jersey Gov.] Phil Murphy last year; he was a popular governor, [and] won very narrowly against a Republican who spent very little,” said city-based consultant Chris Coffey. “This was never going to be a blowout and Democrats are going to need to turn out in order to win this election.”

Julian Shen-Berro, Zach Montellaro and Bill Mahoney contributed to this report.

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