By Richard Lee
Lee Zeldin’s Twitter feed leaves no doubt about what the Republican gubernatorial candidates believes is the top issue in his race with Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Crime has been the major focus of his campaign. Over the past few days, he has tweeted that he will fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for being soft on crime, linked Hochul with the “Defund the Police” movement and touted the law enforcement career of Alison Esposito, his lieutenant governor running mate.
But is this the best strategy for a Republican hoping to become New York’s first GOP governor since George Pataki, who served from 1995 to 2006?
A Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday showed that inflation (33%) and gas prices (15%) were the top concerns among American families. Crime was near the bottom of the list with only 2% of the respondents listing it as their top concern. The advice that political strategist James Carville gave to then-candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 — “It’s the economy, stupid” — still rings true today.
Crime did emerge as a concern in a Siena College Research Institute poll of New York voters with 63% of the respondents identifying crime as a very serious problem. But when voters were asked about crime in their communities, the number dropped significantly. Only 27% felt crime was a serious problem in their communities. Similarly, only 26% were concerned that they might be a crime victim.
The Siena poll did not include a question about whether New Yorkers were concerned about economic issues, such as inflation and gas prices, but a Newschannel 13 poll found that 60% of New Yorkers were concerned about the impact of higher prices on their households.
Election Day is four months away — an incredibly long time in politics, so it is possible that a strong anti-crime message could become a winning strategy. But in July, with inflation rising and the average price of gas in New York at $4.86 per gallon, Carville’s advice looks like the best path to victory.
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. To read more of Lee’s ‘”On the Road to Albany” columns, follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.