New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday accused Republican challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin of using crime concerns to cynically attack her, but also acknowledged that the issue was rooted in sincere worries among the voters who will decide her political fate next week.
“We’re dealing with people’s feelings here. And I understand that. I’m a mother. You’re hard-wired to care about your children and your family’s safety. So voters need to know that we have a plan. We’re working on this,” Hochul said in an interview on “CNN This Morning,” while again calling GOP plans to crackdown on crime while loosening gun laws “irrational.”
Hochul has in recent weeks doubled down on more visible efforts to combat crime, particularly in New York City, where she – like any New York Democrat – needs to win big in order to assure victory statewide. The governor and New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a surge of police, from the city and state-run transit authority, in the subways and has talked up her support for law enforcement on the campaign trail. The Democrat’s new emphasis comes amid a number of uncomfortably tight polls of the governor’s race. No Republican has won statewide office in New York since 2002.
Though she conceded that crime is a prevalent – and real – issue for voters, Hochul slammed Zeldin for fear-mongering and dismissed his promise to crack down on it as disingenuous, citing the Republican’s support for loosened gun laws.
Asked why Zeldin’s lines of attack seem to have been politically fruitful, Hochul was blunt.
“Because they’re being dishonest about it. They’re not having a conversation about real solutions,” Hochul said, before talking about Zeldin’s vote in Congress against a bipartisan gun law.
Hochul also sought, as many local Democrats have, to cast a wider scope on the issue, pointing to a nationwide rise in crime. In New York City, there is a mixed bag of data, with some offenses up – including violent crime – while others are falling.
“That’s not going to give anyone any comfort,” Hochul said. “It says we still have a problem, I understand that, but let’s talk about real answers and not just give everybody all these platitudes.”
Throughout the interview, Hochul, accused Republicans of being rhetorically “tough on crime, but soft on guns.”
“That doesn’t add up,” she said, “and I want the voters to know that.”
The Democrat, who ascended to the governor’s mansion after Andrew Cuomo resigned in August 2021 amid a sexual harassment scandal, also called Zeldin’s pledge to repeal the state’s controversial bail reform law with an executive order a sign of his “naivete,” noting that there is no clear data connecting the criminal justice reform legislation, which is designed to lower the number of suspects kept in pre-trial detention, with a rise in crime.
The law has been scaled back twice since it was passed and signed by Cuomo. But there have been additional calls to go further, or take it off the books entirely. That, however, is unlikely with Democrats in control of the state legislature.
Adams, who has railed against the law – providing ammunition to its GOP opponents – pushed this year for a special legislative session to address it, but was denied by leaders in Albany.
Hochul has said she supports more tweaks, in addition to some she already helped push through, but is broadly supportive of its goals.