Lee Zeldin has a social media edge over Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, has trailed when it comes to polling and fundraising — but he’s got a growing lead on Twitter to lean on ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

The Long Island congressman’s personal profile on the social media platform showed his at 75,608 Friday compared to 74,803 for Hochul, who is leveraging a humongous campaign war chest to get her message out through cyberspace.

“While Kathy Hochul is focused on dodging New Yorkers and the media, Congressman Zeldin is using every means necessary to reach as many New Yorkers as possible,” Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said, alluding to ongoing disagreements between the two campaigns on scheduling debates.

Just 5% of their respective Twitter followers overlap, according to an analysis by the online political data start-up Legislate for The Post. 

Zeldin also has bigger followings on Instagram and Facebook while both candidates appear to be laying relatively low on TikTok.

Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin is expanding his social media presence, with almost a thousand followers above NY Gov. Kathy Hochul.
J.C.Rice

“It’s useful in a higher turnout election with younger voters,” political consultant Bradley Tusk told The Post about the value of having a solid social media position in the Twittersphere.

“Twitter is useful to reach the base and reporters but not new voters. TikTok can reach new voters but they’re likely not voting in this election and TikTok has a lot of controls around politics that make using it for this purpose difficult,” added Tusk, who worked on Twitter superstar Andrew Yang’s 2021 mayoral campaign. 

A bigger audience on such social media platforms could help Zeldin reach voters without having to match Hochul dollar-for-dollar on the airwaves.

A picture of Rep. Zeldin's twitter account.
Rep. Zeldin also has bigger followings on Instagram and Facebook.

A picture of Kathy Hochul's official twitter account.
“While Kathy Hochul is focused on dodging New Yorkers and the media, Congressman Zeldin is using every means necessary to reach as many New Yorkers as possible,” Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said.

Yang is hardly the only pol who has struggled to transform a big online presence into an election victory, with candidates as ideologically diverse as lefty actress Cynthia Nixon, a 2018 Democratic primary candidate for governor, and rightwing Rep. Matt Gaetz losing high-profile elections despite their social media prowess. 

“Jumaane [Williams] also had a big social media following and then fell into the basement,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said in a text about Hochul’s 2018 primary rival for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. 

Hochul – whose official government following is dwarfed by Zeldin’s – is making up for her relatively small audience through paid advertisements, with records showing her campaign spending thousands of dollars on Facebook ads alongside more than 300 ads targeting voters via Snapchat. 

Hochul
Gov. Hochul is seeking to win her first full term in NY.

A picture of NY Gov. Hochul's official government twitter account.
Gov. Hochul has over 233K followers on her official government Twitter account.

A spokesman for her campaign did not immediately return comment.

“Against $20 million of total media: Not a great deal. Zeldin will be forever remembered as the guy – what’s his name – who said ‘debate?’” Sheinkopf said about the worth of a lot more campaign money for Hochul versus Zeldin’s bigger audience.

“Fuggedabout it,” Sheinkopf added.