With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the Democratic governors in New York and Michigan tried to fend off their surging Republican opponents as they met to debate on Tuesday.
In recent polls, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin has caught up to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. If he wins, Zeldin will be the first Republican to hold statewide office since 2002.
In their first and only debate, Zeldin repeatedly criticized Hochul over her handling of the state’s crime wave, as well as over allegations of “pay to play” corruption in the state.
“I’m here for one reason: To save our state,” Zeldin said. With New York losing a record number of residents from 2020 to 2021, Zeldin said he would fight crime and high taxes in order to keep people from leaving the state.
Hochul hit back at Zeldin over abortion and his ties to Donald Trump, and also highlighted their differences on gun policy.
On abortion, Hochul said Zeldin would defund Planned Parenthood and would try to restrict women’s access to abortion.
“Women need to know that that’s on the ballot this November as well,” she said.
Zeldin defended himself by saying it was unlikely a Democrat-led state legislature would send him an anti-abortion bill.
Taking every opportunity to pivot back to a conversation about crime, Zeldin said Hochul had not done enough to make New Yorkers feel safe.
In Michigan, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon also criticized her opponent, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, over crime, saying that her opponent's “radical social agenda” led to the state being in the top 10 for crime in the nation.
Whitmer countered Dixon, a former conservative commentator, accusing her of “stoking violence” and calling her “extreme.”
The issue of education led to some of the biggest clashes of the night, with Whitmer claiming students were only out of school for three months during the pandemic.
“I’m pretty sure I just heard an audible gasp around town when Gretchen Whitmer said that kids were out of school for three months,” said Dixon, while claiming online schooling was to blame for a drop in students’ test scores in math and reading.
Both women said they would not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for school children.
A constitutional amendment giving women the right to an abortion is on the ballot in Michigan in November. Whitmer said she supported the amendment, and said it was necessary to protect access to abortion.
Dixon said the amendment would override parental consent laws, and would allow abortion up until birth. “It would be the most radical pro-abortion law in the entire country,” she said.
When asked to say something positive about their opponent, each woman praised the other for balancing motherhood while running for office.
“I appreciate how difficult it is and applaud any woman who is willing to put herself out there and, at the same time, balance all of the different pressures that we working moms have,” said Whitmer.