Editorial: Roe v. Wade ruling changes dynamics of local races

Since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly a half-century of a woman’s right to an abortion, many antichoice politicians — including Congressman Lee Zeldin — have had to walk a fine line.

Mr. Zeldin, who has represented the 1st District in Congress since 2015 has consistently and stridently opposed Roe v. Wade and hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling when it was overturned. At one point in his current campaign he said he would appoint an anti-choice health commissioner if he won the governorship.

Then, as poll after poll showed strong nationwide support for a woman’s right to choose, Mr. Zeldin, like many other politicians, changed his tune.

While reinforcing his pro-life position, Mr. Zeldin said at various campaign events that, if elected governor, he would not move to repeal a 2019 state law that codified the right to an abortion in New York.

“I’m not in this race because of abortion,” he said at one campaign stop, according to media reports. “I’m not standing here today proposing to roll back that law. I’m not planning to roll back that law.”

His campaign has instead focused on reducing crime – his No. 1 issue — his opposition to the state’s bail reform laws, reducing taxes and improving the state’s economy.

But his support for the Dobbs decision certainly changed the tenor of his race for governor. Had that decision not been made in June, Mr. Zeldin might be ahead of or at least closer to Gov. Hochul in the polls. He now trails her. If he loses next month, the abortion issue might well be one of the reasons.

Republican Nick LaLota, former commissioner of Suffolk’s Board of Elections, is running against Democratic Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming for Mr. Zeldin’s seat in Congress. Throughout the summer, according to his campaign’s website, Mr. LaLota was a strong supporter of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. He said New York should ban third trimester abortions and institute stricter requirements for minors.

It now appears that his website was edited in September to say Mr. LaLota does not oppose abortion in cases of rape, incest or saving the mother’s life.

Holding an anti-choice position in New York State could make victory difficult for Mr. Zeldin, Mr. LaLota and other candidates opposed to Roe v. Wade. Polls in New York State and across the country show a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. With Mr. Zeldin being hailed by anti-abortion groups, it would seem his road to Albany is filled with potholes.

Polls reported by The New York Times indicate that more than 60% of New York residents want abortion to be legal.

Perhaps those in the Republican party who have long hoped for the overturning of Roe v. Wade should have thought twice about what they wished for. This one issue has changed the numbers here and nationwide.

With a Democratic majority in the legislature, the right to an abortion will remain the law in New York.