Daily Point

Trying for pull from the polls

At this point in a statewide race, polls are useful to the stakeholders less for showing who will prevail in a contest and more for who can be sold as a credible contender.

Numbers are used as a sales pitch that now feeds interest in all the campaign-like chatter coming from former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo – and in an actual declared candidate, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Poll results are out that seem tailor-made for those united in the cause of showing Gov. Kathy Hochul, considered to be the leading contender, vulnerable in the June primary and in the November election. The aim is to show it will be a contest despite overwhelmingly Democratic party registration, her strong fundraising and the clear drawbacks of her possible rivals.

Cuomo is playing a won’t-rule-anything-out game. The potentially useful spin for Cuomo comes from the Hill/Emerson College poll which surveyed 1,000 New York voters, including 504 Democratic primary voters, on March 9 and 10. It had margins of error of 3% and 4.3% respectively.

This showed Hochul at 37% among Democrats, Cuomo 33, Rep. Tom Suozzi 7, and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams 4%. Another part of the surveyshowed 59% of all New York voters saying they trust the findings of AG Tish James’s report last year alleging sex harassment by Cuomo, while 23% said they did not with 17% unsure. On Monday, Cuomo released a new campaign-like promotion in which he said "I haven’t been perfect, I’ve made mistakes," without saying what those were, and that he "never will" stop "fighting for New Yorkers." His first post-resignation ad took aim at the credibility of James’ report.

Given its timing, the ad’s release, and the $1 million-30 day buy behind it, Cuomo may be trying to build up his numbers in time to circulate petitions for statewide office that would have to be submitted to the state Board of Elections by April 7th.

And in the same redeem-Cuomo’s-name push, the ex-governor is due to appear Thursday before an audience of Bronx pastors led by former State Sen. Ruben Diaz, who a decade ago was a leading and losing voice against same-sex marriage, which the then-governor muscled through the legislature. The closing seconds of the new ad includes a victory shot from that moment.

On the flip side of the Hochul coin, Rep. Lee Zeldin took the unusual step of publishing an internal poll -- from an old GOP standby, John McLaughlin & Associates -- showing Zeldin with 45.5% of the vote to 44% for Hochul, with the rest undecided. That’s reportedly based on 800 voters surveyed. It was provided first to the New York Post.

The short-term usage for Zeldin is clear: Before the congressman even gets to face Hochul in November, he must get past declared primary challengers Harry Wilson, Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani.

Not coincidentally, rivals Wilson and Astorino have suggested that Zeldin isn’t catching fire with the electorate because he is too associated with former President Donald Trump, and that he’d lose badly to the governor if nominated.

Polls of perhaps varying value can help build a candidate’s credibility – an envied asset at this point in the election calendar.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Taking NYers' pulse on policing, health care

With the legislative season in full swing in Albany, every bit of attention helps to boost a policy priority. Advocates hope that’s the case with the results of two new polls on policing and health care.

The first gauges New Yorkers’ opinions about qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that makes it difficult for individuals to bring civil rights violation cases against police officers and other government officials.

A YouGov survey featuring 753 online interviews of NY registered voters found majority support for eliminating qualified immunity, which could be addressed in legislation this session.

As always, the way the question is phrased is important. Pollsters explained that the change would mean victims "would be able to recover damages" and also that "government resources, paid for partially by taxpayer dollars, would be used to compensate victims of rights violations by public officials."

The cross tabs suggest similar agreement with the change on Long Island, with 57% supporting elimination, on par with the 60% support in the NYC region.

The poll, whose margin of error was plus or minus 5%, was commissioned by the End QI NY coalition, which has been advocating on the issue in Albany.

Another statewide survey developed by research firm PerryUndem dug into health care affordability, with some Long Island numbers popping out: The poll suggested 33% of Long Islanders say they’ve paid a health care bill they thought was wrong "because you feared being sued or harassed if you did not pay it." That was the most of any region measured in the plus or minus 3.5% margin of error telephone poll of 805 New Yorkers 18 and older.

It also found that for Long Island, 88% agree with the statement "People’s background — their gender, sex, race, the language they speak, or immigration status — should not make it harder to get quality healthcare in the US health system."

That’s music to the ears of groups like the Community Service Society of New York and Make the Road NY, some of the advocates for whom the poll was conducted, who are making the case that there’s support for related legislation: like bills that would help with medical debt or provide health care help to people barred from other services due to immigration status.

In Albany, the debates and maneuvering continue.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A problem, in full bloom

Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune/Steve Breen

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Change of address

Exactly where candidates live has suddenly become a particularly newsworthy topic in New York, given how many political hopefuls have been redistricted out of the place they were expecting to represent. In that vein, The Point wondered how the new lines affected George Santos, the Queens Republican mounting a second bid for the now-open CD3, after losing to Tom Suozzi in 2020.

There wasn’t a simple answer.

Santos’ website mentions the parts of Queens where he was raised, and includes the slogan "WE HAVE TO STOP THE SOCIALIST AGENDA FROM DESTROYING LONG ISLAND & OUR COUNTRY," but it does not clearly state his current home community.

In his last bid for CD3, Santos said he lived in Whitestone, and his address in the voter file is still in that Queens community. But he apparently doesn’t live there anymore: Santos told The Point that the house was "vandalized" in the wake of blowback last year after his social media posts showed him attending a Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party that flouted COVID-19 restrictions, a saga covered widely, about which he tweeted at the time.

But that address is in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s CD14, not CD3. Santos and his husband are now not far away, in Beechhurst, in a rental which he says is in CD3, though he refused to share the address or cross street, citing his wish for privacy and his husband being "traumatized at what we experienced."

Residency-wise, the Constitution only requires that members of Congress live in the state when elected, but it’s generally good politics to live in the district where you are running, and a cohort of NY candidates are making pledges or preparations to move.

Santos, for his part, suggests he won’t be on that district border long. Pending renovations, he plans to move in the coming months to a new place in Oyster Bay, firmly within the Long Island section of the district.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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