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

Oct 24, 2022, 3:03 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2022, 3:06 am
FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, front left, greets spectators as...

FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, front left, greets spectators as he marches up 5th Avenue during the annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

              FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, center, speaks to reporters before marching in the annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
            
              FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, right, stands with his daughters Arianna, center, and Mikayla as they speak to reporters before marching in the 78th Annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
            
              FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, right, stands with his daughters Arianna, center, and Mikayla, left, as he speaks to reporters before marching in the annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
            
              FILE - Republican candidate for New York Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, front left, greets spectators as he marches up 5th Avenue during the annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — While many Republican candidates started this election year attacking Democrats over inflation, New York’s Lee Zeldin had a different focus: crime.

The GOP candidate for governor has spent much of the year railing against a streak of shootings and other violent crimes, including a series of unprovoked attacks on New York City subways. He lamented stories of stabbings, people being shoved 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 drive-by shooting outside his home earlier this month.

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

Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Republicans around the country are closing with a message that follows closely to what Zeldin has argued much of the year. In recent debates from Georgia to Michigan and Wisconsin, GOP contenders have blasted Democrats as inattentive to crime. And in New York, there are signs that the crime message is resonating as the race between Zeldin, a four-term U.S. congressman, and Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul tightens somewhat in the final stretch.

“New Yorkers in cities are very, very frustrated by several years of a visible and palpable spike in crime and erosion in quality of life,” Democratic strategist Jon Reinish said. “There are voters on the table who would normally be off the table.”

Zeldin and Hochul will meet Tuesday for their one debate before the general election.

Hochul is still seen as the favorite in the race. A Republican hasn’t won the governor’s mansion in New York since 2002, when Gov. George Pataki won reelection in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In every governor’s race in the state since 2006, the Democrat has won by a significant margin. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 ratio, giving Hochul a distinct advantage even as her party faces headwinds nationally.

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

“It’s a lot closer race than anybody expected,” said Thomas Doherty, a political strategist and aide to Pataki.

Even if Hochul wins, a weaker-than-expected performance at the top of the ticket could have implications for other Democrats on the ballot, particularly those competing in tighter contests in upstate and western New York. The party will need strong turnout, for instance, to keep U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s Hudson Valley district or flip the Syracuse-area seat being vacated by Republican John Katko.

Zeldin’s strategy has at times mirrored the moves of New York Mayor 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 to hold news conferences at crime scenes. It has also given Zeldin a campaign platform in New York City, a generally liberal bastion where Republican candidates face an uphill battle.

He has appeared outside New York City apartment buildings, bodegas and subway stops where violence unfolded and has declared crime to be out of control.

“There is rising crime on our streets and in our subways, and people who are in charge right now in Albany actually feel like they haven’t passed enough pro-criminal laws,” Zeldin said recently.

Rates of violent crime and killings have broadly increased around the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic, in some places climbing from historic lows. While experts have pointed to a number of potential causes, including global upheaval related to the pandemic, Republicans have tried to focus blame on criminal justice reforms adopted after George Floyd’s killing by police.

The reality is often more nuanced. Across New York, rates of murder, rape, robbery and assault have all 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, murder rates are lower than they were two years ago, but rates of rape, robbery, assault and burglary are all up, according to New York Police Department data. Crimes on the city transit system are more than 40% higher than at the same point last year. But subway ridership has risen since last year, and the 1,800 crime complaints made thus far in 2022 on the subway system represent a tiny fraction of the traffic on a system that is seeing about 3.5 million riders a day.

Still, Hochul is paying attention to Zeldin’s attacks and responding.

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

While she has stepped up her campaign attacks portraying Zeldin as “too extreme” and noting his ties to former President Donald Trump, her campaign ads have included a new public safety focus. Her campaign ad released Friday promised that, as governor, she is working to provide “a safe walk home at night, a subway ride free of fear, a safer New York for every child.”

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

“I’m not letting the political theater out there affect what we’ve done. This is not a new issue for me, and I think that’s what we established,” she said.

Zeldin still faces plenty of hurdles of his own, perhaps most notably his alliance with Trump, who is unpopular in the blue state. After Trump wrongly claimed widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin, in his role as a member of the U.S. House, voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

Zeldin’s ties to Trump became even more awkward this month when Trump, on the day he endorsed Zeldin, said American Jews need to “get their act together” and “appreciate” Israel “before it is too late.” Jews constitute an important constituency in New York, and Zeldin is Jewish, but he has not addressed Trump’s comment.

As the election approaches, Zeldin has sought to distance himself from the former president to a degree. When Trump endorsed him, Zeldin brushed aside the endorsement, saying “it shouldn’t have been news” and noting that the former president “supported me before.”

He has similarly tried to pivot away from abortion after sustained attacks from Hochul over the issue.

“I will not change 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 is not as potent of an attack for Hochul with everything else New Yorkers are facing.

“Because of inflation and issues of crime and also other problems that we’re having just in our quality of life, I think that voters are going to be a lot more pragmatic about how they’re doing now as to how they were doing previously, than necessarily who supports who,” Paterson said.

Pataki, the last Republican governor, made a point of stressing his support for abortion rights when he won decades ago.

“The Democrats keep talking about abortion, and look — that might be the savior for them,” said Doherty, Pataki’s former aide.

But Doherty said if he were running a campaign, the only thing he would talk about is crime.

“It is something,” he said, “that a Republican nominee for governor can ride into the Albany mansion.”

___

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

___

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this Nov. 23, 2022 photo, Igor shows the remains of marks on his back after allegedly being tort...
Associated Press

Torture allegations mount in aftermath of Kherson occupation

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — When a dozen Russian soldiers stormed into Dmytro Bilyi’s home in August, the 24-year-old police officer said they gave him a chilling choice: Hand in his pistol or his mother and brother would disappear. Bilyi turned his gun over to the soldiers, who carried machine guns and had their faces concealed. […]
24 hours ago
Protesters hold up blank white papers during a commemoration for victims of a recent Urumqi deadly ...
Associated Press

Chinese university students sent home amid protests

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese universities are sending students home as the ruling Communist Party tightens anti-virus controls and tries to prevent more protests after crowds angered by its severe “zero COVID” restrictions called for President Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of public dissent in decades. With police out in force, there was […]
24 hours ago
South Carolina Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, looks over a map during a House redistricting commit...
Associated Press

S. Carolina’s US House maps under scrutiny because of race

TO MOVE AT 1 AM EST TUESDAY. EDITED by LJAW; BACKREAD by JSC. A trial to determine whether South Carolina’s congressional maps are legal closes Tuesday with arguments over whether the state Legislature diluted Black voting power by remaking the boundaries of the only U.S. House district Democrats have flipped in more than 30 years. […]
24 hours ago
FILE - This photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Kevin Johnson.  A federa...
Associated Press

Missouri prepares to execute man for killing officer in 2005

FOR MOVEMENT TUESDAY AT 1 AM ET. EDITED BY CBLAKE. A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis area police officer he blamed in the death of his younger brother was scheduled to be executed Tuesday, though his lawyers are seeking to have the lethal injection halted. Kevin Johnson’s legal team doesn’t […]
24 hours ago
Lava pours out of the summit crater of Mauna Loa about 6:35 a.m. Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, as seen fro...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What hazards are posed by Hawaii’s Mauna Loa?

HONOLULU (AP) — Lava is shooting 100 feet to 200 feet (30 to 60 meters) into the air as Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, erupts for the first time in nearly 40 years. For now, lava is not threatening any homes or communities and no evacuation orders have been issued. Lava could […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Monday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Elma 81, Aberdeen 40 Fife 58, Chief Leschi 53 Lake Stevens 72, Marysville-Pilchuck 52 North Thurston 72, Foster 39 Stanwood 52, Kamiak 51 Sumner 86, Hazen 38 Tahoma 77, Mount Tahoma 58 Todd Beamer 69, Puyallup 61 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Zeldin’s crime message resonates in New York governor’s race