The issue of crime took center stage at the New York gubernatorial debate Tuesday night with Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin accusing Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul for being soft on violent law-breakers.
Both Mr. Zeldin and Mrs. Hochul attached themselves to New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former NYPD officer who has called for reform of the state’s 2019 cashless bail law among other criminal justice measures passed by the state legislature that year.
Mr. Zeldin noted that the bill also bars judges from considering a defendant’s dangerousness when deciding whether to set bail.
“Even Mayor Adams says that judges should have discretion over dangerousness. I don’t think that if you are Mexican cartel drug smugglers busted with $1.2 million worth of crystal meth that you should just be instantly released on cashless bail,” Mr. Zeldin said. “Now Kathy Hochul supports cashless bail. As soon as it got implemented, she was out there bragging about it,” he said.
Mrs. Hochul accused Mr. Zeldin of fearmongering.
“You can either work on keeping people scared, or you can focus on keeping them safe. I have worked hard to have real policies for making 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 is no crime-fighting plan if it doesn’t include guns, illegal guns, and you refuse to talk about how we can do so much more,” she said. “You didn’t even show up for votes in Washington, when a bipartisan group of enlightened legislators voted for an assault weapon ban.”
Mr. Zeldin replied that Mrs. Hochul focused only on crimes committed with guns while some of New York’s most notorious recent crimes didn’t even have guns involved.
“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. Go talk to the Asian American community and how its impact them with the loss of lives,” he said. “Jewish people targeted with wrong violent anti-Semitism on our streets. It just happened yet again. We need to be talking about all of these other crimes, but instead Kathy uncles too busy patting herself on the back: ‘job well done.’”
Crime in the New York City subway system is up by over 57% this year, and eight homicides in the subway have happened in 2022 so far. No previous year since 2008 saw more than three murders on the subways.
Mrs. Hochul tied herself to Mr. Adams also, noting that he was with her when she announced her plan several days ago for an expanded police presence in the subways, along with security cameras and 50 new treatment beds for the mentally ill.
Mr. Zeldin reiterated his pledge to fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a George Soros prosecutor that many have scrutinized for not prosecuting violent criminals. The candidate also called for a statewide crime emergency to be declared, suspending the state’s cashless bail law.
Neither Mr. Zeldin nor Mrs. Hochul had an obvious needle-moving moment in a race that, according to recent polls, appears to be tightening.
However, they took shots at one another on other issues ranging from the migrant crisis to the effect of vaccine mandates on the economy.
Mrs. Hochul is edging out Mr. Zeldin 50%-46% in the governor’s race, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters.
The same poll shows her leading in New York City 59-37%, while Mr. Zeldin is garnering 50% and Mrs. Hochul 49% in the Gotham suburbs. Mr. Zeldin leads in New York’s upstate region 52-44%.
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