Republican Lee Zeldin’s failed bid last November for New York’s governorship was not a total loss for Republicans. The fact that he lost by only 7 percentage points despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans in New York State by almost 2-1, means that a lot of Democrats were drawn to what he had to say. Moreover, analysts credit Zeldin with drawing enough upstate voters to elect enough individual Republican congressional candidates in certain local districts further down the ticket to bring about Republican control of the House of Representatives. This, even though he could not break the Democratic hold on New York City to himself win statewide.
The results must have shaken up Gov. Kathy Hochul, and to a lesser extent Democratic leaders of the State and Senate, all heretofore in the thrall of the hard left. As a single target, Gov. Hochul has to worry about Republicans in the next election; not so the legislative leaders who enjoy relative safety in numbers.
Those of us who supported Mr. Zeldin were hopeful that, as governor, he would be able to counter the liberal-progressive lock on the Senate and Assembly. But, alas, this was not to be. That effort will continue, however, which means that Gov. Hochul has to proceed with extreme caution.
That the governor gets this is evidenced by her nomination of Justice Hector D. LaSalle to New York’s highest judicial post, Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. Currently sitting as the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court for the Second Department, he has a reputation for being a competent, moderate/centrist jurist and someone likely to be acceptable to all but the progressive left. And therein lies an important tale.
Indeed, Justice La Salle has drawn the ire of State Senate Democrats who will have to confirm his nomination if he is to become Chief Judge. As reported by the New York Times, his critics have pointed to his votes on several cases while serving on the appellate bench including his joining a majority decision denying a defendant’s appeal of guilty plea on weapons possession charges on the grounds that the defendant was aware that he had waived the right to an appeal.
In another case, involving a defamation claim, he is being criticized for voting with the majority in ruling that while state law prohibits companies from suing unions and their representatives for labor-related activities, such lawsuits are allowed if companies can show that the representatives were acting in their personal capacity.
In still another case, he joined a unanimous opinion that ordered the New York attorney general to narrow a subpoena issued to the operator of an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center,” saying the request was too broad and infringed on the operator’s First Amendment rights.
Some critics also point to his having served as an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general and would be too conservative in cases involving abortion, police searches and worker protections.
Whether the criticisms are fair or not, they do tend to provide a window into the kinds of concerns about which Gov. Hochul must be mindful going forward.
In sum, the battle between the progressive left and the Republicans continues unabated.