By Jack Phillips
Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin suggested he would declare a crime emergency and end cashless bail if he’s elected, according to remarks he made during his only debate with Democrat incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Zeldin also declared that he would use his authority as governor, if elected, to remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, one of several high-profile prosecutors linked to progressive billionaire donor George Soros.
“My opponent thinks that right now there’s a polio emergency going on but there’s not a crime emergency—different priorities than I’m hearing from people right now,” Zeldin, a U.S. congressman from Long Island, on Oct. 25 during the debate. “They’re not being represented from this governor—who still, to this moment … hasn’t talked about locking up anyone committing any crimes.”
“I have publicly pledged that my first action, my first day will be to notify Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg that he is going to be fired,” he also remarked, adding he believes “there is a crime emergency in New York and I have publicly pledged that if the state legislature isn’t coming to the table, I will declare a crime emergency and suspend New York’s cashless bail law.”
Throughout the debate, Zeldin—who has made crime the central theme of his campaign—blamed New York’s lax bail reform laws. If elected, he promised to roll back bail reform measures, he said.
In response, Hochul said that “anyone who commits a crime, under our laws, especially with the changes we made to bail, has consequences.”
“I don’t know why that’s so important to you,” the incumbent Democrat said, adding that New York has embraced strict gun control laws. “All I know is that we could do more.”
Hochul blasted Zeldin’s past support for abortion restrictions and for former President Donald Trump, labeling Zeldin an “election denier” and “climate change denier” as she tried to link him to Trump, who had little support in New York. Zeldin, meanwhile, enjoys support in wide swaths of upstate New York. Some recent polling suggests the gap between the candidates could be narrowing.
A longtime state political strategist told the Financial Times that Zeldin’s messaging on crime may be the deciding factor.
“The issue is crime and the economy—not abortion. It always was,” said Hank Sheinkopf, who added that abortion is far behind “fears about getting shot walking down the street or putting food on the table.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.