NEW YORK — Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York governor, is counting on his law-and-order campaign, an issue that has already personally affected his family twice since July.
Two people were shot Sunday outside the Long Island home of Mr. Zeldin when his two 16-year-old twin daughters were inside the residence doing homework, while he and his wife were returning from the Bronx Columbus Day Parade in Morris Park.
After his daughters heard the gunshots and the screaming, according to Mr. Zeldin, they ran upstairs, locked themselves in the bathroom and immediately called 911.
The New York Republican told reporters Sunday that his daughters were “shaken but OK” and “like so many New Yorkers, crime has literally made its way to our front door.”
On Monday morning’s “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Zeldin blasted press critics who accused him of “politicizing” the crime issue by standing in front of police tape around his house just after the shooting happened.
He said he did that to accommodate them.
“I was standing outside of my home answering their questions because they asked me to come outside to speak to them,” Mr. Zeldin said.
“So I said ‘OK, you know. You all are asking for me to come out to address what happened. I’m happy to do it rather than doing a whole bunch of one-on-one interviews while we’re spending this time with our daughters.’”
Mr. Zeldin blamed the New York media for “propping up” his opponent, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, whom he has criticized over New York’s bail changes that have made it harder to keep people behind bars while awaiting trials.
“If they were going to give any fuller coverage to what happened, they don’t want to incidentally end up helping my candidacy,” Mr. Zeldin said. “So, I don’t know if Newsday has actually said anything negative about Kathy Hochul ever. I’m not sure — maybe they have. But the reality right now in this state is that New Yorkers don’t feel safe.”
This is the second time during the campaign that Mr. Zeldin has been personally affected by crime. At a July event in Fairport, an attendee attacked him on stage with a pointed weapon, which he and others were able to fend off.
New polling from Trafalgar released last week shows him neck and neck against Mrs. Hochul, who had the support of 44.5% or respondents to Mr. Zeldin’s 42.6%. Libertarian write-in candidate Larry Sharp garnered just 3.3% support and 9.7% are undecided in the poll of 1,087 likely voters.
Mrs. Hochul’s 1.9-point edge is less than the survey’s error margin of 2.9 percentage points, making the poll a statistical tie.
“On Nov. 8, we are going to win this race for governor,” Mr. Zeldin said of the results from the Trafalgar survey.
However, a survey taken by Siena showed Mrs. Hochul ahead by 17 percentage points, far more than that poll’s 3.9-point error margin.
Nassau County Republican Executive Bruce Blakeman thinks he can explain the discrepancy, noting that Siena has a history of underestimating Republican performance.
“I have seen that the Siena poll, say, favors the Democrat, and I’m somewhat perplexed at what their scientific methodology is since they are so wrong,” Mr. Blakeman told The Washington Times.
“Obviously, I won last year, and they had me way behind. When I ran for Congress a few years ago, they had me way behind and I lost a very close race,” he said of Siena polls in previous cycles.
“I see them doing it again with Zeldin, and I’m just wondering whether or not they are skewing the results in favor of Democrats to frustrate Republican turnout and fundraising,” he said.
The crime issue has given the Zeldin camp a boost in fundraising and kept him competitive, something other recent Republican gubernatorial nominees in New York.
Two super PACs, Safe Together NY and Save our State NY, are being funded by conservative billionaire Ronald S. Lauder.
These groups can accept unlimited donations from Mr. Lauder, who has already committed nearly $4.5 million to the two PACs, or from anyone else, as long as there is no formal coordination with Mr. Zeldin’s official campaign.
A Zeldin-campaign attack ad blames Mrs. Hochul for the crime rate in New York with videos of violent criminal incidents with a voiceover saying, “On Nov. 8, vote like your life depends on it, because it does! Hochul’s gotta go!”
The Hochul campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Times.
But her defenders have taken issue with the ad saying that half the clips are from before she became governor, and one clip is video of an incident in California.
Mr. Zeldin said his campaign “swapped” out the errant California clip and noted that even the clips before her governorship are still relevant because they are “from when she was lieutenant governor. She is not getting any type of a free pass.”
New York passed its sweeping cash bail reform package in 2019, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law.
It prohibits cash bail for all except serious crimes. State judges also cannot detain defendants based on their apparent dangerousness and must use the least restrictive means to guarantee that defendants return to court.
When asked in August during a radio interview on WNYC about the bail-reform laws, Mrs. Hochul defended her stance, saying she amended the laws earlier this year to close certain loopholes that allowed repeat offenders off the hook.
“What we had to do was close loopholes that were in place to let repeat offenders go back out on the streets. Or in cases that involve guns or hate crimes, none of them were bail eligible, meaning that there would be a case where a judge would simply send them back,” she said.
However, she refused to propose a dangerousness threshold as guidance for judges.
She claimed it would be too subjective, and said some judges may hold people in jail based on racial bias. Besides Mr. Zeldin, others who have called for dangerousness as a criterion for pretrial release include New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who is Black.