Please don’t be complacent about voting. You may believe you are in a ‘safe’ district or state where the polls show a commanding lead for your candidate, but polls can be wrong. We have seen that. Not only that, but it is important that your voice be heard. It matters if a candidate wins with a clear majority versus a slim margin – the message from the electorate is more powerful when it is backed by huge numbers. So, no matter where you live, make your voice heard.
I write this because I am worried. In New York State, where polls show Kathy Hochul with a commanding lead in the race for Governor, I see the Republican candidate reaching for a familiar election strategy to change the momentum: fear – fear of crime. We know that is an effective tactic. While we can legitimately discuss crime and whether bail reform is responsible for, or even plays a role in, the rise, it is not legitimate to use propaganda to stoke that fear entirely out of proportion to reality. The fact that the crime rate has risen in states that have not enacted changes to bail would suggest that there are other elements at work. Bail reform is a policy worth reviewing and can no doubt benefit from study, but it must be kept in perspective. It is especially problematic when there are so many other important issues to consider.
I think it is important to consider the candidates’ other positions. I took a closer look at Zeldin’s voting record – he has been in Congress representing the eastern end of Long Island since 2014. Here are some of the recent bills he voted AGAINST: Assault Weapons Ban (ironically I believe most in law enforcement support this), Inflation Reduction Act, Right to Contraception, Ensuring Access to Abortion, Women’s Health Protection Act, Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, Consumer Price Gouging…the list can go on and on. These bills were not part of some crazy liberal agenda – they are responses to problems and needs that most New Yorkers support.
I believe that among my community some may be considering voting for Zeldin, for two reasons. First, his position on crime and second, his support of Israel. I’ll address the second issue first because it is easier. While Zeldin is Jewish, I could find nothing that suggests that Hochul has not been an ally for Israel and for the Jewish community. In fact, when Cuomo was in the process of resigning, Jewish leaders from around the state voiced their support for Hochul and characterized her as “accessible, transparent and widely liked.” It does not appear that there is a difference between the two candidates on this.
For me, nothing is more concerning than his position on reproductive health. In this post-Roe era, the governor of New York must unequivocally support a women’s right to choose. Lee Zeldin does not. It is painfully obvious that governors and state legislatures are on the forefront of protecting women’s rights. We can’t afford to entrust the governorship to someone who will not provide full-throated support for autonomy over their own bodies, especially for our daughters and granddaughters.
Others may not place that issue as high as I do when they evaluate candidates. Here is another thing to consider. The anti-Zeldin commercials I have seen highlight his closeness to Donald Trump. I don’t trust political ads, so I read his public statements after January 6th and looked at his voting record on the issues surrounding it (Trump’s impeachment, the recent vote to fix the ambiguity around the role of the vice president in certifying the election, among others). What did I find? He deserves to be portrayed as a Trump supporter. He voted against impeachment and against the clarifying legislation. On January 7th, after the insurrection, this was the statement he issued: “ I just returned home from our Nation’s Capitol after witnessing firsthand from inside the House Chamber yesterday the best of America clash with some of the worst of it in a moment of my life I will never forget. For this moment, let’s take one collective deep breath, recharge and renew our spirit for whatever lies ahead. We are all Americans first.”
He took a play from Trump’s playbook by coyly not identifying who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. I didn’t leave out the part of his statement explaining that. To make matters worse, on the night of January 6th when Congress reconvened to certify the results, Zeldin voted to reject Arizona’s presidential election results. He also joined in the lawsuit that sought to discard the votes of Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, which was subsequently thrown out by the Supreme Court.
In the days, weeks and months that followed, Zeldin has never acknowledged Trump’s culpability in that attack or that the election had not been stolen. In fact, he has defended Trump, alleging that a double standard was applied where Trump’s inciting words were criticized but not Democrats. He failed to note which words and by whom. And, in case you were wondering, there are New York Republicans in Congress who have rejected Trumpism and voted in support of a number of the measures I noted above. A person who has not disavowed Trump cannot be trusted to lead our state – he either lacks a backbone or conscience or both.
As I have written before many times on this blog, I can understand and respect different policy approaches. I have never been a Republican and can’t imagine that I ever will be, but I recognize the importance of compromise and finding common ground. I am happy to debate policy issues, from taxes to crime to the economy and everything in between. I must draw a line, though. I cannot accept allowing Donald Trump to continue to be the standard-bearer for the Republican party. He cannot be permitted to skate by without being held accountable for the damage he has done, much less hold public office again. People like Lee Zeldin appear to be all too happy to allow him to remain in party leadership. I hope New York Republicans will reject Zeldin in his bid to be governor.
If crime is your central concern, there are any number of ways to communicate with elected officials and advocate for other approaches. I ask that you not allow the spate of political ads that play on fear and make exaggerated claims to dictate your vote. Look more deeply at the issue and what candidates are offering as solutions. I hope those in my community who might be considering Zeldin will realize he is a poor choice for a myriad of reasons, including that he does not offer real solutions to rising crime. It is a lot more complicated than repealing bail reform.
Most importantly, I urge everyone to do their homework on the candidates (for all offices). Don’t rely on advertisements. Read their own words; look at their positions; if they have a voting record, check it out. And then vote – it matters.