The Republican statewide surge in New York due largely to the party’s law-and-order platform has extended to the attorney general’s campaign, according to recent polls that show the race tightening.
Just four weeks ago, a Siena College Research Institute poll showed New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, leading her Republican challenger, Queens commercial litigator Michael Henry, by a 16-point margin.
But the same pollster this month shows that Ms. James‘ lead has narrowed to 11 points. Additionally, a nonpartisan Trafalgar Group poll has her trailing Mr. Henry by 1 point, 45.4% to 44.4%, as of Oct. 15.
“I always told people this was going to be a sleeper race, and we’ve always felt that this was a winnable race, and that there was a pathway to victory,” Henry campaign spokeswoman Candice Giove told The Washington Times.
New York Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf says Mr. Henry has an uphill battle, saying Ms. James has most of the advantages on her side and is not likely to lose.
“Why? Because there’s been no money and no activity surrounding the race. Attorney general races are generally unusual outcomes,” he said, noting that voters give down-ballot races less interest. “Is it possible for Tish James to lose? The answer is yes. It’s always possible.”
Mr. Henry is at a fundraising disadvantage, raising just $400,000 this cycle and spending $257,000 so far, according to records. But the political environment in New York, where voters rank crime as a top issue, could help Mr. Henry in the final weeks of the campaign.
Ms. James launched her reelection bid in December after ditching her brief run for governor and has raised a massive $10 million, of which she has spent $7 million, according to the latest campaign filings.
Republicans, who have not won statewide office in New York since 2002, see a glimmer of hope to change that as Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin is also neck-and-neck in polls against Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Like Republicans in deep-blue states across the country, Mr. Zeldin and Mr. Henry are campaigning on Democrats’ unwillingness to hold violent and longtime criminals accountable.
Their agenda would include suspending the state Democrats’ 2019 cashless bail measures and firing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is scrutinized for often not punishing lawbreakers in New York City.
Mr. Henry, a political unknown, is running on a campaign of restoring law and order, lowering inflation, and fighting corruption in the Albany statehouses.
“That is really what’s driving this campaign. He‘s been out on the streets for over a year, meeting people and getting into communities that are very key to winning this election,” Ms. Giove said.
Ms. James has made a national name for herself in the legal and political world as an attack dog against former President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, spending much of her tenure filing cases against both.
She riled up New York‘s law enforcement community when she filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for alleged police brutality during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
However, according to reports, she has spent little time on the campaign trail, and political campaign experts on both sides of the aisle told The Times that she and Mrs. Hochul will need a strong turnout of minority voters in New York City on Election Day.
The James camp did not return requests for comment.
However, on Sunday night during an event with supporters, Ms. James admitted that the race was close.
“Listen, I’m not going to lie to you,” she said. “This race is closer than it should be … and it’s because there is this excitement gap, they tell me.”
A recent Marist poll shows that New York Republicans are more animated this cycle to vote. Mr. Henry was lauded by Mr. Zeldin at a GOP campaign rally in Long Island on Saturday that included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that was attended by thousands of people.
As of now, according to Mr. Sheinkopf, Mrs. Hochul at the top of the ticket is not generating enthusiasm.
“If Blacks don’t turn out significantly in New York City and the suburban population does, then the probability increases that Hochul will not be the governor in January,” he said.