Gov. Hochul dashed away from a Brooklyn parade today and ignored a shouted question from The Post — just days after a shock poll showed underdog challenger Lee Zeldin trailing her by just four points.
Unlike Mayor Eric Adams, Hochul stuck to her head-in-the-sand script and refused to break stride to press the flesh and speak with reporters while marching in the West Indian Day parade along Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.
And when Hochul — who led a contingent of dignitaries behind a large banner bearing her name, title and official seal — got to New York Avenue, before the end of the route, she peeled off and darted to a waiting SUV.
The Democratic governor briefly turned her head in response to a shouted question from The Post asking when she’ll debate Zeldin, an outgoing Republican congressman from Long Island.
But she didn’t answer, got into the vehicle and was driven away behind its tinted windows.
GOP political consultant William O’Reilly, who isn’t working for Zeldin, said, “Gov. Hochul thinks she can run a Rose Garden strategy, but she does so at her own peril.”
“New Yorkers expect their candidates to debate, and they don’t look kindly on those who try to squirrel out of them,” he said.
“As an unelected governor, Mrs. Hochul has an added obligation to voters, but at this point, she doesn’t seem to care. She thinks she can coast to victory, and that could be a very costly mistake.”
On Aug. 17, Hochul’s campaign said she “looks forward” to facing off in debates against Zeldin but wouldn’t say if she’ll agree to his plan for five debates across the Empire State.
The CBS New York and PIX11 TV stations have offered to host and broadcast one debate each.
In a statement following Hochul’s disappearing act Sunday, Zeldin asked, “What is Kathy Hochul so afraid of?”
“She could easily accept the CBS2 and PIX11 debate requests today!” said Zeldin, who appeared very accessible at the same parade.
“Voters deserve the ability to make an informed decision about the future of our state, to learn first hand where the two candidates stand on the issues most important to them and cast their vote accordingly.”
Hochul — who succeeded Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he resigned last year over a sexual harassment scandal and is facing probes of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — has consistently led Zeldin by as much as 24 points in polls ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
But survey results released Saturday by the independent Trafalgar Group showed Hochul with a slim, 47.8%-43.4% lead over Zeldin, with a 2.9% margin of error.
Trafalgar chief pollster Robert Cahaly tweeted that the “numbers are surprising” but said there’s been “a big shift in favor of non incumbents” in the wake of President Biden’s decision last month to cancel as much as $20,000 in student debt per borrower.
The previous poll regarding the gubernatorial race — which gave Hochul a commanding, 55%-31% edge — was released on Aug. 23, one day before Biden’s controversial announcement.
When asked for comment Sunday, Hochul’s campaign recycled its statement from last month, saying: “As she has in every election throughout her career, Gov. Hochul looks forward to debating Congressman Zeldin this fall.”
“New Yorkers need to hear about Lee Zeldin’s allegiance to the MAGA agenda and far-right record on guns and abortion rights and Gov. Hochul will deliver that message to voters ahead of November,” the statement added.
Hochul’s campaign wouldn’t say why she ducked questions at the parade and referred that question to her office, which didn’t immediately return a request for comment.