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Why NYC Democrats are backing Republican Lee Zeldin for governor

A Democratic candidate for New York state governor cannot be elected without the backing of New York City’s huge number of Democratic voters. But looking around Gotham, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single political sign supporting Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate in next week’s election.

Meanwhile, signs for Republican candidate Lee Zeldin are popping up across the city — even in the Democratic stronghold of Queens.

In fact, when a reporter from The Post knocked on the front doors of the homes where “Zeldin for Governor” signs are displayed, many of the people inside said they consider themselves Democrats — but nonetheless plan to vote Republican on Nov. 8.

“I feel the Democratic Party has left me, I didn’t leave the party,” said Phil Wong, 56, a longtime former Democrat who has planted a Zeldin sign outside the Elmhurst home he shares with his wife, kids and elderly mother. “They left me with all these extreme progressive policies that hurt New York City and hurt Asians.”

Phil Wong of Elmhurst, Queens, says the city’s spike in crime is driving many of his fellow Democrats to switch sides and vote for Republican Lee Zeldin for New York governor on Nov. 8.
Matthew McDermott

Wong, an immigrant from Hong Kong, is the president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York and the former chair of the Community Education Council 24 in Elmhurst. He has actively campaigned to preserve NYC’s gifted-and-talented programs and the SHSAT, the admissions test used by the city’s most selective high schools. He said the changing policies at city public schools is what’s spurring him to vote for Zeldin, a Republican congressman from Long Island.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is not getting the vote of many Queens Democrats who are fed up with rising crime and declining public school standards.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is not getting the vote of many Queens Democrats who are fed up with rising crime and declining public school standards.
Kevin C. Downs for NY Post

“Now it doesn’t matter how well you do in school because it’s no longer based on merit, it’s based on a lottery,” said Wong.

“So suddenly, kids don’t even want to work hard anymore, because the chance of going into any school with a 95 average will be the same as the kid that’s about to fail. That is not right, that just tells kids that they can just goof off and hang out or hang around and still get into the good schools.”

Wong said he also believes that the spike in serious crime — which, according to NYPD statistics, has increased nearly 36% over last year from January to September — is why he’s seeing more of his neighbors and friends in Queens declaring their support for Zeldin.

“I see more and more moderate Democrats coming out every day and saying they are going to vote for Zeldin,” Wong told The Post. “We had a great city under Giuliani and Bloomberg, but when De Blasio came on, it went downhill. I used to feel safe, my mom felt safe and my kids felt safe. I felt that they could go out, play in the park, go to school on their own and come back. And now I don’t feel that anymore.”

John and Luz Schaffer are long-time Democrats who will be voting for Zeldin. They say Hochul’s lack of concern for rising crime led them to their choice.
John and Luz Schaffer are long-time Democrats who will be voting for Zeldin. They say Hochul’s lack of concern for rising crime led them to their choice.
Matthew McDermott

Not far from Wong’s home in Elmhurst lives John Schaffer, a computer engineer, and his wife, Luz, who works in catering. Luz is Hispanic and a longtime Democrat; her husband is a white, registered Democrat who simultaneously considers himself conservative. Despite casting their votes for Democrats in the past, the couple is displaying a Zeldin sign in their Halloween-themed front yard.

“Kathy Hochul, just in the debate alone, you could see that crime was not important to her,” said John, who did not give his age. “What she actually said was, why is it important?”

John said he drives his wife to and from work if she has to go very early or return home late because they both fear rampant subway crime.

During the debates, Schaffer said, it was evident Hochul doesn’t care about crime.
During her debate with Zeldin, Schaffer said, it was evident Hochul doesn’t care about crime.
AP

“It’s just not safe,” he said. “We’ve seen the videos. For that reason alone I’m voting for Zeldin. But there’s so much more. The Democratic Party has become so corrupt in every way.”

“You can see how the city is going down,” added Luz, who also didn’t give her age. “You see so many homeless, so many dangerous people. Everyone is scared and we wish the city would go back to the way it was before.”

In the nearby Queens neighborhood of Woodside, one-time Democrat Lucy Hensley, 51, who was born in Venezuela, is displaying a Zeldin sign outside the modest, two-story home she shares with her husband, Luis Vielma.

Venezuela-born Lucy Hensley said she fears the left-leaning policies of the current Democratic party, which she no longer supports.
Venezuela-born Lucy Hensley said she fears the left-leaning policies of the current Democratic party, which she no longer supports.
Matthew McDermott

“We came here with nothing,” Hensley said. “We had zero and we now have a nice life without ever having had to depend on the government. But what we’ve been seeing in the US thanks to Democratic policies is a disaster. Being Venezuelan, we understand more than maybe many others what is happening. We saw this happen in Venezuela. We know how they start. We really hope Zeldin wins.”

Most of the Zeldin signs spotted by The Post in Queens can be found in Richmond Hill, facilitated in part by retired veteran prosecutor James Quinn, who lives on 112th Street. Quinn, a Republican, said he put out a lot of Zeldin signs in his front yard and a number of his Democratic neighbors came by to pick up a few for their own lawns.

A registered Republican, James Quinn said a lot of his Democratic neighbors have taken some of his Zeldin for Governor signs to display on their own lawns.
A registered Republican, James Quinn said a lot of his Democratic neighbors have taken some of his “Zeldin for Governor” signs to display on their own lawns.
Matthew McDermott

“I get the sense that there’s a lot more people who have always voted Democrat but will vote Republican this year,” Quinn said. “I hear them say that they feel there is really no hope that Democratic politicians are going to reverse any of these crazy policies or do anything to help solve all the problems we’re seeing in the city.”

One of Quinn’s neighbors is a longtime city cop who has always voted Democrat. He did not want to be identified publicly but he said he took a Zeldin sign from Quinn to hang outside his home and he plans to vote Republican from now on.

One of Quinn’s neighbors who took a Zeldin sign was a longtime city cop who has always voted Democrat but told The Post: “We no longer identify with the Democrats.”
One of Quinn’s neighbors who took a Zeldin sign was a longtime city cop who has always voted Democrat but told The Post: “We no longer identify with the Democrats.”
Matthew McDermott

“All the violence that we’re seeing and all the inflation and corruption is too much for me and my family,” he told The Post. “We no longer identify with the Democrats. They are out of touch with the middle class and the people in the community. They all have agendas, thinking that it’s all about just being like, liberal. They think everybody’s liberal like that but we aren’t. Our values align much more now with what conservatives want.”

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