In the midst of a crime wave engulfing New York City, New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin focused on bail reform in the state as he consistently attacked New York Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul for supporting it.
Early in the debate, Zeldin attacked Hochul’s erstwhile support for cashless bail, saying, “Kathy Hochul supports cashless bail; as soon as it got implemented she was out bragging about it. She chose the champion of the Defund the Police movement and the architect of cashless bail, Brian Benjamin — yeah, that guy who got arrested and had to resign — that was her first big decision to make as lieutenant governor. We need to repeal cashless bail. … We need to make our streets safe again. I’m running to take back our streets and to support unapologetically our men and women in law enforcement.”
New York passed a major bail reform law in 2019 which barred cash bail unless there were a serious misdemeanor or felony. Defendants could not be held by judges based on whether the judge thought the defendant was dangerous. That law was reformed after public outcry in both 2020 and 2022.
Hochul has stated, “We never said that the cause of crime in the state is because of bail reform. That is too simplistic. That is a political slogan.”
The NYPD reported in August compared to July 2021, July 2022 found citywide shooting incidents had increased 13.4% and the number of murders citywide increased for the month by 34.3%.
That same month, Hochul stated, “I will look at all the data. I’ve yet to see data that shows a correlation with a net increase in crime and the bail laws. Because it doesn’t exist in any other city.”
Later, Hocul mocked Zeldin for his focus on bail reform.
Zeldin prompted Hochul’s cavalier answer by declaring, “I stated that the first day that I’m in office, I’m going to declare a crime emergency and suspend cashless bail and these other criminal laws because there is a crime emergency. My opponent thinks that right now, there’s a polio emergency going on but there’s not a crime emergency — different priorities that I’m hearing from people right now that are not being represented, from this governor who still to this moment, what are we, halfway through this debate? She still hasn’t talked about locking up anyone committing any crimes.”
“Anyone who commits a crime under our laws, especially with the change we made to bail, has consequences. I don’t know why that’s so important to you,” Hochul replied.
Then she avoided talking about the numerous incidents of people being attacked, segueing to a pitch for gun control: “All I know is that we can do more. We could do so much more if there was a nationwide ban, but certainly a state ban on teenagers being able to get guns, assault weapons. That’s what happened in Buffalo; a teenager walked into a shop and was able to buy an assault weapon.”
“I don’t know why it is so hard to articulate what needs to get done,” Zeldin fired back. “When you have a district attorney refusing to enforce the law, stand up. When you’re asked about the Jose Alba case — I was in front of the district attorney’s office that day — you had a press conference, you were asked; you said it was a local decision, you’re not going to get involved in it. I said Alvin Bragg should be removed; you said he just got there; cut him some slack; he’s doing his job.”
“I say we should overhaul cashless bail,” Zeldin continued. “You’re saying there’s no data to support it, you have to elect me to find out what my position on it might be in January.”