Chris Lange, FISM News
Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin held incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul’s feet to the fire over soaring crime in the state’s only televised gubernatorial debate ahead of the Nov. 8 midterms.
Zeldin kicked off the debate by declaring that New York is in the midst of a crime “crisis” as a result of Hochul’s failed leadership. The GOP challenger cited cashless bail as one of several soft-on-crime policies that have made New Yorkers feel less safe.
“We need to make our streets safe again. I’m running to take back our streets and to support, unapologetically, our men and women in law enforcement,” Zeldin said.
Hochul dismissed the claims, saying that “Anyone who commits a crime under our laws, especially with the change they made to bail, has consequences,” referring to efforts to scale back bail reforms in 2020.
“I don’t know why that’s so important to you,” she added in a remark she likely regrets: Zeldin wasted little time in posting the clip to his Twitter account.
Kathy Hochul's response to me tonight when I spoke about how we need to lock up criminals:
"I don’t know why that's so important to you"?
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) October 26, 2022
Hochul insisted that the problem of rising crime can’t be solved until more gun restrictions are put in place, citing Monday’s deadly St. Louis school shooting.
“There is no crime-fighting plan if it doesn’t include guns — illegal guns,” the governor asserted.
Zeldin pounced on the statement, pointing out that guns fail to account for a spate of violent attacks in the streets and subways of New York City.
“Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes that are being committed are these crimes with guns. And you have people who are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars. They’re being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers,” he said.
“Go talk to the Asian-American community and how it’s impacted them with the loss of lives, Jewish people targeted with raw, violent antisemitism on our streets” he continued, adding that his opponent “is too busy patting herself on the back” to pay attention to the surge in violent crime plaguing New Yorkers.
Moderator Errol Louis pointed out that crime in the city’s subways has risen more than 57% this year while homicides jumped more than 100% up from last year.
Hochul responded by saying that she understood the fear New Yorkers felt concerning crime, without specifically addressing the stats, and touted increased funding for law enforcement.
Hochul labels Zeldin as ‘election denier’
Gov. Hochul showed she had some arrows in her own quiver as she sought to link her opponent to former President Trump, who remains an exceedingly unpopular figure in the Empire State. Hochul called her challenger an “election denier” for his support of Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“In Lee Zeldin’s world, you overthrow the results of elections you don’t agree with,” the governor said. Zeldin voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
When asked by a moderator if he would make the same decision today, Zeldin avoided giving a direct answer, saying instead that he wants to focus on the future, adding that voter ID laws must be put in place to ensure election integrity.
“Is Donald Trump a great president? Yes or no?” Hochul pressed her opponent.
Again, avoiding an affirmative or negative response, Zeldin praised Trump’s record on policies including border enforcement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and U.S.-Israeli relations.
The rivals also locked horns on abortion. Hochul criticized Zeldin’s past support for abortion restrictions while the GOP candidate slammed the governor’s push to send millions to abortion providers to expand access for a possible influx of out-of-state patients.
While recent polls show the gap between the two candidates has narrowed in recent days, Fox News Power Rankings has rated the New York gubernatorial race as “likely Democrat.” Zeldin’s ability to gain large swaths of support in the blue state by almost solely focusing on crime, however, highlights a significant hurdle Democrats face with the midterm election now less than two weeks away. Republicans have made the rising crime in Democrat-led states a central focus of their midterm campaign strategy.
The full debate can be viewed by following this link.