While many Republican candidates in this election season began by criticizing Democrats over inflation, Lee Zeldin of New York chose to focus on crime.
The Republican candidate for governor has railed about a string of shootings and other violent crimes, including several unprovoked assaults on New York City subways, for much of the year.
He bemoaned reports of stabbings, people being pushed down railroad tracks by opportunistic individuals, and an odd event near Times Square were six women in neon green leotards attacked and robbed two women on a train.
In a personal twist, earlier this month, a drive-by shooting outside his home resulted in the injuries of two teenagers.
“I’ll tell you what: A lot of people are telling me that they’re keeping their head on a swivel more than ever before,” Zeldin said.
Republicans throughout the country are delivering a message in the final days before the November 8 election that closely echoes what Zeldin has advocated throughout the year.
Republican candidates have attacked Democrats as indifferent to crime in recent debates from Georgia to Michigan and Wisconsin.
And in New York, there are indications that the anti-crime message is impacting as Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and four-term U.S. Congressman Zeldin’s election becomes considerably more competitive in the closing stages.
The final debate between Zeldin and Hochul will take place on Tuesday before the general election.
The favorite in the contest is still Hochul.
Since 2002, when Gov. George Pataki was reelected in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a Republican hasn’t taken home the top job in New York.
Since 2006, the Democrat has won every governor’s contest in the state by a large majority.
Despite her party’s national challenges, Hochul has a transparent edge because Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 2:1.
Since July, even as recently as mid-October, Siena College polls have shown Hochul to have a sizable advantage against Zeldin.
However, other recent polls indicate Hochul only has a slight lead.
Even if Hochul prevails, other Democrats on the ballot, especially those running in more competitive races in upstate and western New York, may be affected by a worse-than-expected showing by the party’s presidential candidate.
For instance, the party will require a significant attendance to maintain U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s Hudson Valley district or take over John Katko’s former seat in the Syracuse region.
Zeldin’s strategy has occasionally resembled New York Mayor Eric Adams, a moderate who won a competitive Democratic primary last year by emphasizing crime numbers and made it a point to hold news conferences at crime scenes while running for office and in office.
Additionally, it has provided Zeldin a platform for his campaign in New York City, a stronghold for liberals where Republican candidates have it strict.
He has made public appearances outside the violent apartment complexes, bodegas, and subway stations in New York City and said that crime is out of control.
“There is a rising crime on our streets and in our subways, and people who are in charge right now in Albany feel like they haven’t passed enough pro-criminal laws,” Zeldin said recently.