On Oct. 26, during a press conference at an upstate New York gas station that has been plagued with crime, Lee Zeldin, who is running to unseat Governor Kathy Hochul in the midterms on Nov. 8, told a crowd of supporters that his campaign is “about being able to take our streets back,” saying that “the reality today is that the handcuffs are being thrown on the criminal justice system rather than slapping those handcuffs on the people who are actually committing the crimes.”
Zeldin is an attorney, politician, and officer in the United States Army Reserve. Currently he represents New York’s 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives, a position he has held since 2015.
He won his candidacy in the race against Hochul after defeating three challengers in the Republican gubernatorial primary this past June.
Born and raised on Long Island, Zeldin earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany, then earned a law degree from Albany Law School at the age of 23, making him New York’s youngest attorney at the time.
Zeldin lays the blame for surging crime rates in the Empire State squarely at the feet of the current governor.
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Hochul has served in her office since Aug. 24, 2021, after being appointed to the role following the resignation of her running mate, Andrew Cuomo, who faced numerous allegations of sexual harassment. Prior to this, she served as lieutenant governor of New York from 2015 to 2021, a time that saw sweeping new bail reform laws drafted and implemented in the state that many regard as the catalyst for skyrocketing crime rates.
According to a recent report titled “More Criminals, More Crime: Measuring the Public Safety Impact of New York’s 2018 Bail Law,” published this July 28 by the Manhattan Institute, following the implementation of New York’s 2018 bail reform laws, crime in the Empire State surged by double-digit percentages for numerous types of crime.
According to the report, the period between March 15, 2019 and March 15, 2020 saw burglaries in New York state rise by 26.5 percent while robberies rose by an astounding 33.9 percent.
Shooting incidents rose by 22.9 percent during the same period as well as grand larceny which increased by 15.8 percent. Car thefts increased by an astounding 68 percent in the same period.
“The only crimes to show decreases were murder (-3.2%) and rape (-11.5%), crimes for which judges could still set bail,” the report reads.
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Putting communities before criminals
Zeldin has communicated a comprehensive plan to tackle the surging crime in the state by focusing on repealing cashless bail and the Less is More Act, addressing issues impacting correctional facilities, providing law enforcement with the tools and funding they need to suceed and ensuring and expanding victims rights.
The Less is More Act, which went into full effect on March 1, 2022, included some of the most sweeping reforms to parole New York State has ever seen and allows people on parole to reduce their parole sentence by half.
Zeldin is all too familiar with the crime impacting New York State telling supporters, “There was a gang related drive-by shooting on my own property while my 16-year-old girls were at home on a quiet Sunday afternoon doing their homework.”
The incident occurred on Oct. 9 which saw two individuals shot in Zeldin’s own front yard.
To support victims of crime, Zeldin wants to overhaul the Board of Parole and the parole hearing process, require unanimous decisions by Parole Commissioners when granting parole, replace members of the Parole Board who have expressed poor judgment and require consideration of third party testimony from victims and victims’ families, among other things.
Zeldin wants to go as far as to establish a process for victims and victims’ families to appeal parole decisions.
According to Hochul’s campaign website, her approach to addressing rising crime rates in the state is to focus on increasing gun violence by enacting more gun laws.
Hochul wants to support the convicted saying that “For far too long, formerly incarcerated New Yorkers have been forced to deal with the lifelong consequences of criminal convictions that deny them a second chance to reclaim their role as an equal member of society.” She is proposing a “Jail-to-Jobs” initiative that aims to “ensure incarcerated people have the support they need to find employment during re-entry, as well as the restoration of the Tuition Assistance program for incarcerated people — ending a 30-year ban.”
Hochul’s campaign website is silent on the rights of victims.
‘We have to raise our game as it relates to education’
During a campaign speech on Oct, 30, Zeldin revealed some startling results concerning the recent testing of New York State students.
“Finally we had the state scores released for our schools and there is a massive performance gap right now that is expanding between New York and the national average,” he said, adding that, “We are seeing ,as a result of the pandemic and lockdown policies, the impact on our kids. Really, their generation has suffered the most of all generations.”
He said that despite New York State spending two and half times more than either Florida or Mississippi, New York students are testing lower than both of those states. “Despite the far less amount that is spent per pupil, they are performing better … What are we doing wrong?” he asked.
New York State is not alone. According to a recent article by Time, no state saw an improvement in students’ math or reading scores between 2019 and 2022; the majority of states saw declines.
The situation was revealed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also known as “the Nation’s Report Card.”
Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) said in a statement, “The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic, as the size and scope of the declines are the largest ever in mathematics.”
Zeldin surges in the polls
Zeldin’s message appears to be reaching New Yorkers. Two recent polls are indicating that Zeldin is chipping away at Hochul’s lead. One poll, by left-leaning Slingshot Strategies, released on Oct. 28, shows Zeldin trailing Hochul by single digits with Hochul leading by only six points.
According to the NY Post, Slingshot pollster, Evan Smith, told reporters, “We do see a genuine enthusiasm gap where Zeldin actually leads with the most likely voters to turn out.”
It appears that Hochul’s position with voters slid following her debate against Zeldin on Oct. 26.
The other recently published poll, by PIX11 News/Emerson College Polling/The Hill, found that Hochul leads with 50 percent of the vote compared to 44 percent for Zeldin after Zeldin gained roughly 10 points in recent weeks.
Hochul had a 15-point lead in a September poll released by PIX11, which also found that 50 percent of voters favored her while only 35 percent favored Zeldin; however that was before independent voters began swinging their votes towards Zeldin.
Zeldin is leading with male independents with 58 percent of their vote while Hochul is only garnering 37 percent.
Among independent women it is more balanced. The poll indicates that Zeldin has a single point lead with independent women with 46 percent of their vote while Hochul is attracting 45 percent of their votes.
At a campaign event on Sept. 10, Zeldin told Vision Times, “We are fighting to save our state and we need everyone to get out and vote on Nov. 8,” adding that, “I’m running for Governor because I want to do my part to save the state, but I can’t do it alone. So, tell all of your readers they have an important role to play, register to vote and show up on Nov. 8.”
New Yorkers from across the state will hit the polls on Nov. 8 this year to decide on the future of the state, choosing their Governor, Lt. Governor and representatives for all 150 districts for the New York State Assembly.