The issue of crime took center stage during New York’s gubernatorial debate on Tuesday night with Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin accusing Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul of being soft on violent offenders.
Both Mr. Zeldin and Ms. Hochul have lashed out at New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former NYPD officer who called for reform of the state’s 2019 cashless bail law, among other criminal justice measures passed by the state legislature that year.
Zeldin noted that the bill also prohibits judges from considering a defendant’s dangerousness when deciding on bail.
“Even Mayor Adams says judges should have discretion over dangerousness. I don’t think if you’re Mexican Cartel drug dealers arrested with $1.2 million worth of crystal meth, you should be immediately released on cashless bail,” Zeldin said. “Now Kathy Hochul supports cashless bail. As soon as it was implemented, she bragged about it,” he said.
Ms. Hochul accused Mr. Zeldin of fearmongering.
“You can either work on scaring people or focus on keeping them safe. I worked hard to have real policies to make a difference. And as you mentioned, that data is still being collected,” she said, adding that she focused on bail reform in the last state budget.
She also tried to shift the issue to gun control.
“I insisted on common sense terms, but there’s no plan to fight crime if it doesn’t include guns, illegal weapons, and you refuse to talk about the way which we can do a lot more,” she said. “You didn’t even show up for the votes in Washington, when a bipartisan group of enlightened lawmakers voted for an assault weapons ban.”
Mr. Zeldin replied that Ms. Hochul focused only on gun crimes when some of New York’s most notorious recent crimes didn’t even involve guns.
“You have people who are afraid of being pushed past oncoming subway cars. They are being stabbed, beaten to death in the street with hammers. Go talk to the Asian American community and how it impacts them with loss of life,” he said. “Jews targeted by violent and misguided anti-Semitism on our streets. It’s happened again. We need to talk about all these other crimes, but instead, the uncles of Kathy are too busy congratulating themselves: “job well done”.
New York City subway crime has risen more than 57% this year, and so far eight subway homicides have occurred in 2022. No previous year since 2008 has seen more than three murders in the subway.
Ms Hochul also linked up with Mr Adams, noting he was with her when she announced her plan several days ago for increased police presence on the subway, as well as security cameras and 50 new beds treatment for the mentally ill.
Mr Zeldin reiterated his promise to fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a George Soros prosecutor who many have scrutinized for not prosecuting violent criminals. The candidate also called for the declaration of a statewide criminal emergency, suspending the state’s cashless bail law.
Neither Mr. Zeldin nor Ms. Hochul had an obvious needle-moving moment in a race that recent polls show appears to be tightening.
However, they have fired at each other on other issues ranging from the migrant crisis to the effect of vaccination mandates on the economy.
Ms. Hochul is ahead of Mr. Zeldin 50% to 46% in the gubernatorial race, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters.
The same poll shows her leading in New York 59-37%, while Mr. Zeldin garners 50% and Ms. Hochul 49% in suburban Gotham. Mr. Zeldin leads in the upstate New York region 52-44%.