Zeldin’s message about crime resonates in the New York governor’s race

Zeldin’s message about crime resonates in the New York governor’s race

NEW YORK (AP) – While many Republican candidates began this election year attacking Democrats inflationNew York’s Lee Zeldin had a different focus: crime.

The GOP gubernatorial nominee has spent much of the year battling a spate of shootings and other violent crimes, including a series of unprovoked attacks on the New York subway. He complained about stories of stabbings, people being pushed onto the tracks by strangers and a bizarre incident near Times Square in which several women in neon green leotards attacked and robbed two women on a train.

And in a personal twist, two teenagers were injured in a shooting outside his home earlier this month.

“I’ll tell you what: A lot of people are telling me they’re holding their heads on a swivel more than ever before,” Zeldin said outside a Queens subway station days after a subway rider was pushed onto the tracks. “People walk these streets like they’re in a combat zone.”

In front elections on November 8Republicans across the country are closing with a message that closely follows what Zeldin has argued for most of the year. In recent debates from Georgia to Michigan to Wisconsin, GOP candidates have criticized Democrats for being careless about crime. And in New York, there are signs that the crime message is resonating in the race between Zeldin, a four-term US congressman, and the Democratic governor. Kathy Hochul somewhat tightens in the last part.

“Urban New Yorkers are very, very frustrated by several years of visible and tangible increases in crime and an erosion in the quality of life,” said Democratic strategist Jon Reinish. “Voters are on the table who would otherwise be off the table.”

Zeldin and Hochul will meet on Tuesday for a debate before the general election.

Hochul is still considered the favorite in the race. A Republican has not won the governor’s mansion in New York since 2002, when Gov. George Pataki was re-elected after terrorist attacks on September 11. In every gubernatorial race in the state since 2006, a Democrat has won by a wide margin. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, giving Hochul a distinct advantage even as her party faces obstacles nationally.

Siena College polls since July, including as recently as mid-October, have shown Hochul with a significant lead over Zeldin. But other recent polls have shown Hochul with only a modest lead.

“The race is much closer than anyone expected,” said Thomas Doherty, a political strategist and Pataki aide.

Even if Hochul wins, a weaker-than-expected showing at the top could have implications for other Democrats on the ballot, particularly those competing in tighter contests in upstate and western New York. A foreign country, for example, will need a strong response to retain a US representative. Sean Patrick Maloney’s Hudson Valley District or flip a Syracuse seat being vacated by a Republican John Katko.

Zeldin’s strategy has at times mirrored that of the mayor of New York Eric Adams, a moderate who won a crowded Democratic primary last year by focusing on crime rates and made a point on the campaign trail and as mayor by holding news conferences at crime scenes. It also gave Zeldin a platform to campaign in New York, a generally liberal bastion where Republican candidates face an uphill battle.

He appeared in front of New York apartment buildings, bodegas and subway stations where violence was taking place and declared that crime was out of control.

“There’s an increase in crime on our streets and in our subways, and the people in charge right now in Albany actually feel like they haven’t passed enough pro-crime laws,” Zeldin said recently.

Violent crime and homicide rates have risen sharply across the US since the coronavirus pandemic, in some places climbing from historic lows. While experts have pointed to a number of potential causes, including global upheavals related to the pandemic, Republicans have tried to blame criminal justice reforms passed after George Floyd was killed by the police.

The reality is often more nuanced. Across New York, rates of murder, rape, robbery and assault have increased since the pandemic, and all of those crimes except robbery have increased from 2012 to 2021, according to New York State data.

In New York City, homicide rates are lower than two years ago, but rates of rape, robbery, assault and burglary are increasing, according to data from the NYPD. Crimes in the city transport system are more than 40% higher than in the same place last year. However, subway ridership has increased since last year, and the 1,800 felony charges filed so far in 2022 on the subway system represent a small fraction of traffic in a system that carries about 3.5 million passengers a day.

However, Hochul pays attention to Zeldin’s attacks and responds.

Over the weekend, she appeared with Adams in New York to announce more the police would be deployed in the subwayswith platform officers at at least 300 stations during peak hours and transit officers to ride hundreds of additional trains per day, also during peak hours.

Although she stepped up her attacks on the campaign trail, portraying Zeldin as “too extreme” and highlighting his ties to former President Donald Trump, her campaign ads included a new focus on public safety. Her campaign ad released Friday promised that, as governor, she would work to provide “a safe walk home at night, a safe subway ride, a safer New York for every child.”

At an unrelated news conference Monday, Hochul dismissed the idea that she wasn’t talking about crime.

“I don’t let political theater affect what we did. This is not a new issue for me and I think we have established that,” she said.

Zeldin still faces a number of obstacles of his own, perhaps the most important of which is an alliance with Trump, who is unpopular in a blue state. Afterwards Trump falsely claimed that election fraud was widespread in the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin, in his role as a member of the US House of Representatives, voted against certification Joe Biden’s victory.

Zeldin’s ties to Trump became even more uncomfortable this month when Trump, on the day he endorsed Zeldin, said American Jews needed to “come together” and “appreciate” Israel “before it’s too late.” Jews make up an important constituency in New York, and Zeldin is Jewish, but he did not address Trump’s comment.

As the elections approach, Zeldin has sought to distance himself somewhat from the former president. When Trump endorsed him, Zeldin rejected the endorsement, saying “it shouldn’t have been news” and noting that the former president had “endorsed me before.”

He similarly tried to move away abortion after continuous attacks from Hochul over this issue.

“I will not and could not change New York’s abortion law,” Zeldin said in a new television ad.

Former New York Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, said Zeldin’s alliance with Trump isn’t as strong an attack on Hochul as anything else New Yorkers face.

“Because of inflation and the crime problem and other problems that we have just in our quality of life, I think voters are going to be a lot more pragmatic about how they’re doing now compared to how they were before. , but necessarily who supports whom,” said Patterson.

Pataki, the last Republican governor, emphasized his support for abortion rights when he won decades ago.

“Democrats talk about abortion all the time, and look — it could be a lifesaver for them,” said Doherty, a former aide to Pataki.

But Doherty said that if he was running the campaign, the only thing he would talk about was crime.

“That’s something,” he said, “that a Republican candidate for governor can walk into Albany Castle.”


Associated Press/Report for America writer Maysoon Khan in Albany, New York, and AP reporter Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.

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