Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)...

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) are set to debate on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Credit: James Carbone/Craig Ruttle

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin will square off Tuesday for their only debate of the campaign, just two weeks before Election Day and as the race has tightened.

The one-hour debate, hosted by Spectrum News NY1, is set for 7 p.m.

The event will mark perhaps the final milepost in the race before early voting begins Saturday statewide.

It also gives candidates the opportunity to make closing arguments to try to sway undecided voters.

But with polls showing a scarcity of such voters, the debate just as well provides Hochul and Zeldin, a Republican congressman from Shirley, with an opportunity fire up supporters and encourage them to go vote.

“The traditional way of thinking about debates in politics is they only change minds at the margins and more often tend to solidify supporters,” Jim Twombly, a longtime political scientist at Elmira College, told Newsday.

The most recent Marist College poll on the governor's race, taken earlier this month, found about 4% of voters said they could change their minds about whom to back.

That’s half the rate of undecided voters in the landmark George Pataki-Mario Cuomo gubernatorial contest in 1994, Marist said.

“This is a time to rally the party faithful. There’s not going to be a lot of persuasion out there,” Marist pollster Lee Miringoff said. “This is about turnout.”

Nonetheless, Miringoff said Hochul and Zeldin each will be on the spot to defend themselves on certain issues.

“Hochul is going to have to address crime. Zeldin is going to have to discuss Donald Trump and the Dobbs decision,” Miringoff said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

Most of Hochul's and Zeldin's lines of attack likely have been plotted out already, analysts said.

Hochul will attack Zeldin for his alliance with Trump, and Zeldin's House vote against certifying the 2020 election after the mob insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said.

Zeldin likely will hit Hochul on crime, bail laws and immigration, Muzzio said.

The latest polls showed the race has tightened since Labor Day.

A Siena College poll in September found Hochul had a 17-point lead.

A Siena poll last week put Hochul's lead at 11 points.

A Marist poll said Hochul led by 10 points among registered voters, but only by 8 among those who said they were “definitely voting.”

Also last week, a Quinnipiac University poll said Hochul’s lead was just 4 points.

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