NEW YORK (WABC) -- Kathy Hochul made history in the 2022 midterm elections as she became the first woman elected as governor of New York.
Her opponent, Congressman Lee Zeldin, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon conceding defeat.
Zeldin had hoped to become the first Republican to win the seat in 20 years. The Congressman received the most votes for a Republican since Nelson Rockefeller in 1970.
"There's no way that we would have been able to get this close to 50% without being able to successfully connect with so many people who have in the past voted Democrat," Zeldin said.
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Confetti rained down over ballroom in lower Manhattan as Hochul declared victory in this narrow race. As Election Day drew near, the race tightened even more, with voters expressing serious concern about crime and the high cost of living.
WATCH | Kathy Hochul addresses supporters:
Though she did not hold a formal post-election press conference, Hochul spoke to a television station in her hometown of Buffalo, defending her record on crime and bail reform.
"Well, which was not clear in this race, that changes were made to the bail laws they were made during the budget, when I was able to, you know, ensure that the legislature made the changes related to repeat offenders. So they're now covered by the bail laws, cases involving violations of orders or protection done cases. So those were all just changes we already did. And they were just recently implemented. So we're gonna give those a little bit of time to work," she said.
During the race, Zeldin was strong in the suburbs and even in some more conservative sections of NYC, but it was not enough to overcome the overwhelming registration advantage that Democrats enjoy in the nation's largest city.
"Tonight. You made your voices heard loud and clear. And, and you made me the first woman ever elected to be the governor of the state of New York," Hochul said as she celebrated with her win with supporters. "I'm not here to make history. I'm here to make a difference."
Zeldin spoke in front of his supporters without acknowledging Hochul's victory.
WATCH | Lee Zeldin addresses supporters:
"We came to this with passion to have a debate of ideas for a better direction of New York and we're still totally committed towards seeing it through for the 1.4 million Election Day voters who have not yet had their vote tap cast and counted," the Congressman said.
As of early Wednesday morning, 93% reported Hochul's six-point lead, which is far lower than the 24-point margin Cuomo had when he won years ago.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams tweeted late Tuesday night to congratulate Hochul.
Though Hochul has been governor for a year, she is not as well known as her predecessor. Cuomo was known for his aggressive style and became a national media fixture for his pandemic briefings before his tenure was overshadowed by scandal.
Hochul, a former congresswoman, was serving as Cuomo's low-profile lieutenant governor before taking over in August 2021 when he resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, which he denies. She has tried to cast herself as a fresh change from Cuomo, promising more collaboration and transparency while trying to steer the state through the pandemic aftereffects.
The Buffalo native's formidable campaign fundraising brought in about $50 million, which she's used to fund a smattering of campaign ads staking herself as a defender of abortion rights and portraying Zeldin, who hails from Long Island, as "extreme and dangerous" because of his ties to Trump and his vote against certifying the 2020 election results.
As Zeldin's message appeared to be resonating in the final month, Democrats found themselves on the defensive.
Some information from the Associated Press