RealClear New York

Representative Lee Zeldin appears to be getting traction with voters on what could prove to be the Democrats’ Achilles’ Heel this fall — crime.

Brittainy Newman/Newsday via AP, pool, file
Congressman Lee Zeldin during a Republican gubernatorial debate, June 20, 2022. Brittainy Newman/Newsday via AP, pool, file

That’s some news that the gubernatorial race in New York is now a tossup. This, after all, is a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. So consternation must be the mood of Governor Hochul and her left-wing camarilla. It suggests that her opponent, Representative Lee Zeldin, is getting traction with voters on what could prove to be the Democrats’ Achilles’ Heel this fall — crime.

The toss-up designation was made by RealClear Politics, based on an average of opinion surveys. The polls depict a steadily deteriorating position for Ms. Hochul. The first survey noted, in June, gave her a 24 percent lead over Mr. Zeldin. The most recent, from earlier this month, gives her but a six-point edge over her rival. Another survey within the past few weeks showed Mr. Zeldin trailing by only two points.

Ms. Hochul’s sagging fortunes can be tied to a number of factors, including her shrinking from any debate with Mr. Zeldin (“Scaredy Kat,” the New York Post calls her), a steady drumbeat of pay-to-play corruption allegations, and deplorable statistics from the state’s public school system. Yet Mr. Zeldin seems to have struck a nerve on the issue of public safety, and Ms. Hochul’s refusal to fix the misguided bail reform laws.  

Politico reports that a wave of lawlessness across New York — exacerbated by the state’s lax law enforcement policies — has “elevated Zeldin’s tough-on-crime campaign message.” One Friday saw Mr. Zeldin highlighting crimes like random attacks in the subway, Politico writes, only to find on Sunday that his own Long Island home, with his daughters inside, had become the scene of “a random drive-by shooting.” 

Then again, too, Mr. Zeldin saw first-hand how New York’s bail reform system works when, in July, he was attacked while on stage at a campaign rally outside Rochester. The attacker, who allegedly attempted to strike Mr. Zeldin with a sharp object, was arrested at the time but then almost immediately released without bail. It was an almost too blatant example of the kind of disorder that the Democrats’ bail reform system has helped to foster.

Ms. Hochul, despite the entreaties of Mayor Adams, who has a more realistic awareness of the damage being done by the bail reform laws, has refused to bend on a series of common-sense fixes that would aid public safety. One would be changing the law that prevents New York judges, alone among the 50 states, from considering an accused criminal’s dangerousness when weighing whether to release him pending trial.

“Our criminal justice system is insane,” Mr. Adams says, “And it’s destroying the fabric of our city.” Yet Ms. Hochul derides that as “too simplistic” or “a political slogan.” She sees bail reform as “successful,” because under the classical system, “Black and Brown communities” were “disproportionately impacted.” Yet these communities are now among those most victimized by crime and aggrieved by the rising disorder on the streets.

The Democrats’ defiance of common sense on crime is no doubt a key driver for Mr. Zeldin’s surge in the polls. Yet it’s not the only reason to back the Congressman’s candidacy. We were the first paper to endorse him for governor, seeing him as “the right choice for any New Yorker looking, as we are, for higher wages, lower taxes, safer streets, better schools, less regulation, and more freedom.” It looks like more New Yorkers are coming to the same conclusion.


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