Around 11:30p on Election Day, two and a half hours after polls closed, the Associated Press declared incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul the winner in a hotly contested governor's race with Republican Lee Zeldin. With only 5% of the total vote separating the two candidates, Democrats same close to losing the seat for the first time since 2007.

So what saved Hochul? It wasn't NYC. It wasn't Long Island. It wasn't even her home city of Buffalo. It was the Capital Region. To understand why, we have to look at 2018.

Cuomo's 2018 Win

A map of the 2018 NY Governors Race
Canva/Gage vis Wikimedia Commons

In the 2018 governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Cuomo outperformed Republican Marc Molinaro 3,635,340 to 2,207,602. Cuomo took big advantages in NYC and ten counties: Albany, Erie, Monroe, Nassau, Onondaga, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Tompkins, Ulster, and Westchester. In Albany County, Cuomo carried the vote 52.3% to 40.3% out of 114,026 total.

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Now let’s look at 2022.

NY GOP Candidate For Governor Lee Zeldin Holds Election Night Party
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Per Politico maps, Zeldin outperformed on Staten Island and Long Island, taking a strong majority lead. Adding insult, Hochul is also projected to narrowly lose her home city of Buffalo. With 90% of votes in Erie County in, Zeldin has around a four thousand vote lead. Hochul is on the verge of carrying only six counties outside of NYC.

Here’s where the Capital Region comes into play in an election-saving way for Hochul:

Former President Bill Clinton Attends Attends Get Out The Vote Rally For Gov. Hochul And NY Democrats
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Hochul picked up Columbia County in a huge way. Cuomo lost to Molinaro there by 588 votes in 2018. With 95% of votes counted, Hochul is leading by 2,160. Cuomo lost Schenectady County by a sizeable 3,513 votes. With 95% of the vote tallied, Hochul is winning Schenectady by a razor-thin 570 ballots.

Then there’s Albany. It’s not a surprise for Hochul to take the usually blue county, but the incredible margin was a game-changer. With the same 95% of votes currently in, Hochul has 59% of the vote to Zeldin’s 41%. The 18% spread beat Cuomo’s by 6 points – a huge boon in a more densely populated county.

With most margins either down-to-the-wire or firmly Republican, data points to Albany, Schenectady, and Columbia Counties as Hochul’s key to victory in what could have been a dramatic loss.

These Were The Top 8 Issues For New York Voters For The 2022 Elections

This Siena College Research Institute poll shows what issues New York voters were most concerned with for the 2022 midterms. Data was collected between September 16-25, 2022 via phone from 655 likely New York State voters.

A majority 53% of New Yorkers are pessimistic about where the country is headed, while 47% think the state's future is in trouble. Environmental issues just edged out of the top 8, with 55% of those polled in favor of New York passing the proposed $4.2 billion environmental bond act.

Gallery Credit: Cameron Coats