Attempts to change the subject are being thwarted as lawmakers fall victim to high-profile crimes.
Before he made a decision to run for Governor of New York, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) was a relative unknown outside his district.
Once Rep. Zeldin announced his candidacy, he was still an unknown.
Even more than unknown; he was at that time a Republican candidate for Governor of New York, the ultimate underdog. Running to replace current NY Governor Kathy Hochul, Lee Zeldin started his campaign with a chance of succeeding so infinitesimal as to be practically negligent.
But that was many news cycles ago.
Two years ago, most voters weren’t at all concerned about rising crime in their communities. Crime as an election issue was barely a blip in the polls back in those days. Even six months ago, though national crime statistics had gone up precipitously, serious concerns about crime still weren’t showing up in the polls.
For Democrats running for reelection in districts where crime has skyrocketed, concerns about crime are certainly showing up now.
It is perhaps these concerns about crime, more than any other issue, which has Republican challenger Lee Zeldin now within two polling points of catching a Democratic incumbent…in New York.
Governor Hochul, who replaced disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo after the latter’s ignominious resignation, should be leading comfortably in the polls…all the way to election day.
Even under the enduring cloud of Cuomo, Hochul no doubt would still be cruising to an easy victory but for one thing.
Criminals in New York, courtesy of well-meant but poorly executed attempts at bail reform, have given the Zeldin campaign a major, if macabre, boost with voters.
In July, while Rep. Zeldin was giving a campaign speech, a man rushed the stage and tried to stab him.
“Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, was attacked on Thursday at a campaign event outside Rochester by a man with a pointed weapon who dragged him to the ground before being subdued by several other men, according to officials and videos of the attack,” was the New York Times’ carefully-couched version.
Though plenty of other mainstream media outlets also tried to downplay the incident, it didn’t do much good
In the midst of intentionally bland and ambiguous language like, “pointed weapon,” and “incident”, phrases like, “dragged him to the ground,” and, “attacked at a campaign event,” and, “subdued by several other men,” stand out like the threats to democracy the press is always- though elsewhere- warning about.
“His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were ‘you’re done’, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy,” a relieved Zeldin tweeted after the incident. “Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes.”
“The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws,” finished Zeldin, brutally.
It was the coup de gras: As Zeldin predicted, the suspect apprehended in an act of attempted murder caught on video, was released within hours under NY’s reformed bail laws. There was a predictable outcry in the conservative press and Zeldin’s alleged attacker was subsequently arrested by federal authorities.
Zeldin’s status as a sitting Congressman affords him extra protection under federal law; not everyone has such privileges, as Zeldin is surely pointing out even now on the campaign trail.
Of course, that was back in July.
“New York congressman and Republican candidate for governor Lee Zeldin says his family is safe after two teenagers were shot outside his Long Island home Sunday afternoon,” announced CBS News today.
“Thank you to everyone who reached out expressing concern regarding the shooting outside my home this afternoon around 2:18 p.m.,” said the Congressman in a statement.
“My 16 year old daughters, Mikayla and Arianna, were at our house doing homework, while my wife, Diana, and I were in the car, having just departed the Bronx Columbus Day Parade in Morris Park,” Rep. Zeldin said of the incident.
“After my daughters heard the gunshots and the screaming, they ran upstairs, locked themselves in the bathroom and immediately called 911,” the statement read. “They acted very swiftly and smartly every step of the way and Diana and I are extremely proud of them.”
“The two individuals who were shot were laying down under my front porch and the bushes in front of our porch,” continued Zeldin. “My understanding is that they have been transported to area hospitals. I do not know their identities. Law enforcement is currently at our house. My entire family is at home working with the investigators and providing the security footage from our home cameras.”
“My daughters are shaken, but ok,” the Congressman added. “Like so many New Yorkers, crime has literally made its way to our front door. My family is grateful to all who have reached out and we will provide another update when we can.”
Across the aisle, and a few towns away, two elected Democrats were carjacked within 24 hours of each other back in December. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) was carjacked in Philadelphia and Illinois State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) suffered the same fate in Chicago.
“I begged them not to shoot us, not to shoot my husband, or me,” Lightford gave WGN News reporters a heartbreaking account of her horrible ordeal. “I told them to take whatever they want. They took everything off me that I had of value. After we got the guns off us, they separated me and and my husband. After we got the guns off us, my husband told me to run. I ran, reluctantly, because I didn’t want to leave him there.”
“Moments ago @RepMGS left South Detectives after she was carjacked at gunpoint in broad daylight at FDR park,” tweeted reporter Annie McCormick for ABC6 of the similar incident involving Rep. Scanlon. “Along with her car, her govt ID & cell phone were also taken. She was returning to her car after a tour at the park.”
Five teenagers were arrested in connection with the crime; one of them, only 13 years old.
Farther afield, out in California- while the LA Times makes the case that Governor Gavin Newsom has earned another term- Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) was recently the victim of a home burglary.
“Last night, I came home and discovered that my house had been broken into and burglarized,” Rep. Bass said in a statement. “LAPD was called, and I appreciate their assistance. At this time, it appears that only two firearms, despite being safely and securely stored, were stolen. Cash, electronics and other valuables were not.”
Once upon a time, Bass felt safe in the city; no longer: “It’s unnerving and, unfortunately, it’s something that far too many Angelenos have faced,” Bass said of her experience.
Incidentally, Karen Bass is running for LA Mayor against recent Republican-turned-Democrat Rick Caruso. Caruso unexpectedly got the endorsement of famed music executive and producer Clarence Avant in May after the latter’s wife was murdered in their home during a robbery.
Democratic Party powerhouse and former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was assaulted and robbed in California last July. Boxer was on a walk in her neighborhood when she was knocked down.
“The assailant pushed her in the back, stole her cell phone and jumped in a waiting car,” Boxer’s office said in a statement posted to Twitter after the incident. “She is thankful that she was not seriously injured.”
But no elected Democrat is getting quite as many questions about rising crime as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Even the Chicago Tribune, a progressive outlet which endorsed Lightfoot during her last reelection campaign, has noticed the Mayor doesn’t like questions about crime.
“The fact is that there are fewer large companies headquartered in Chicago this year than last year, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago luncheon. “There are fewer this month than last month.”
After this rather delicate and certainly factual observation, Lightfoot treated the press to yet another masterclass on contempt for criticism.
“I think what would have been helpful is for the McDonald’s CEO to educate himself before he spoke,” Mayor Lightfoot told the press testily.
Now that Tyson Foods announced this week that it too is joining the great exodus of companies leaving Chicago, perhaps Mayor Lightfoot might be willing to take a meeting or two with concerned CEOs instead of name-calling.
If the Democratic Party is forced to hand the keys to the kingdom over to Republicans in just a few weeks, rising crime might be the reason.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)