Turnout during the nine days of early voting in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City has been low — and experts say the lack of early enthusiasm could portend trouble for incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul.
Hochul, who was forced to call in the cavalry — Bill and Hillary Clinton and President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — in an effort to wake sleepy New York Democrats last week is in the political fight of her life against rising Republican challenger Lee Zeldin.
A total of 432,634 voters turned out early in the five boroughs, although public and internal polls showed a very close race.
“The lack of enthusiasm for the Hochul campaign is validated by these mediocre [early voting] numbers,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
“Zeldin has a greater possibility of winning based on those numbers.”
A Democratic strategist said of the turnout, “This race is a jump ball.”
New York’s cumulative turnout on the seventh day of early voting on Friday was just 33.7% of the early turnout from the 2020 presidential election.
Breaking the alarm glass seems to have worked a bit – as turnout in all five boroughs increased a bit over the weekend.
By the end of early voting on Sunday, turnout had jumped five percentage points – still just 38.6% of 2020 turnout when 1.19 million people cast their ballots early in the hard-fought presidential election of 2020 between President Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Early turnout was abysmal in the heavily Democratic Bronx, where only 39,069 residents voted — just 3,000 more votes than in GOP-run Staten Island, which has about a third of the Bronx’s population.
Brooklyn got 135,239 votes, followed by Manhattan with 133,618, Queens with 88,840, the Bronx with 39,069 and Staten Island with 35,868.
Zeldin told the Post on Monday that turnout and enthusiasm for Hochul are low in many Democratic strongholds in the city as he generates enthusiastic support.
“It’s a big problem for Hochul, I don’t know if she can recover from it tomorrow. The turnout in some areas where she expected a higher turnout just wasn’t there” , said Zeldin.
“We’ve seen the enthusiasm gap for a while – it’s manifested in different ways. As she rallied a few days ago with Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris, we had 10 times as many people showing up at a rally in the capital region.There is clearly a big gap in energy and enthusiasm between the two campaigns.
“She just didn’t get the numbers she needed from some of these boroughs. There are some groups within the boroughs that just haven’t shown up. And we don’t see anything today that lights a fuse among those people who just didn’t show up.
State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar said by contrast, early turnout was higher at the Zeldin base in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island than in New Town. Democratic-leaning York, where Hochul needs to up the score.
But state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, a key Hochul adviser, insisted the turnout was good for Hochul and the Democratic ticket.
Jacobs said New York City typically gets about a third of the vote in statewide elections. He said that was at 27% of the total early votes and hoped to at least hit that mark in Tuesday’s final vote.
“We feel very good. We’ll see what happens when the polls close on Tuesday,” Jacobs said.
Sources said government workers and black voters historically tend to vote on Election Day, which could boost turnout in Hochul. But many Republican-leaning voters also prefer to vote on Election Day.
Hochul and the Democratic ticket have a big advantage when it comes to mail-in ballots, a Post review of state and city election data reveals.
The state Board of Elections reported that 62% or 349,087 of the 564,318 mail-in ballots requested by voters statewide were from registered Democrats. Only 20% or 111,744 were requested by Republicans and 17% or 96,288 were requested by independents.
Of the 327,886 mail-in ballots returned so far, 200,243 were from Democrats, 72,495 from Republicans and 50,604 from independents.
The overwhelming number of mail-in ballots requested in New York came from Democrats – 171,188 out of 219,228.
So far, 83,582 of the 102,923 paper ballots received by the local election commission have been from Democrats.
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