Election 2022: Lee Zeldin stays on message in campaign's final days

EXCLUSIVE | Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, says that in the race for governor, voters are focused on two issues this year.

"A lot of people you ask them, what's your most important issue," Zeldin told Fox 5 News as he took a ride on the subway. "Ask somebody what's on the top of your mind? People are talking about crime and public safety." 


And crime especially is what Zeldin has centered his campaign on. 

"The first day that I am in office immediately after being sworn in as the next governor of the state of New York, I will be declaring a crime emergency here in the state of New York," Zeldin declared at a rally last month.

Zeldin said this crime state of emergency would allow him to suspend the state's cashless bail laws. 

While murders and felony assaults are down compared to last year, the city is seeing a crime surge with transit crime up more than 41% compared to last year. 

And according to Zeldin, the leading causes are bail reform and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who Zeldin said he would fire immediately. 

We asked Zeldin how he would tackle crime on the subway. 

"I think that it's really important to have more law enforcement," Zeldin said. "I think it's important to enforce fair jumping. Day one memo of Alvin Bragg, he said that he wasn't going to enforce that at all. Some people when they ride the subway, they're Jewish, they take their yarmulke off because they're afraid of being attacked."

Zeldin said part of cleaning up the subway is also clearing out homeless individuals who are at times camped out next to or on the trains.  

"You shouldn't be able to loiter and do that. People have been unclothed, they're laying down," Zeldin insisted. "This is not a place for people to be participating in activities other than moving from point A to point B."


Zeldin has also focused his campaign on across-the-board tax cuts, saying he would get rid of the state's personal income tax and the estate tax. He also wants to make the state friendlier to businesses and have homeownership in reach for most New Yorkers. 

"They want a good-paying job, they want to be able to afford to pay their bills," Zeldin said. "What is the American dream for many New Yorkers often includes homeownership, wanting to have a family, wanting to be independent, make enough where you have some extra money that might be available so that it's not just about having the basic necessities just to survive."


Zeldin has been clear that he is pro-life, a position that his opponent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, has criticized him for, but he also said he won't mess with New York's abortion laws already on the books. 

Would he use executive action to roll back abortion protections?

"My commitment is that the law that was passed a few years ago, that codified far more than Roe, I will not change," he said. 


While Zeldin was serving as a congressman, he did vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election. But when it comes to elections in New York, Zeldin said he believes they are fair and free. 

"New York actually has a lot of laws that are on the books to ensure election integrity. Now, I'm somebody who does support voter ID," Zeldin said. "But even regardless of that conversation, you just look at the laws on the books. There are actually a lot of laws to ensure election integrity that don't even exist in a bunch of other states."


Hochul's campaign has also criticized Zeldin on his alleged ties to far right groups. According to reports, Zeldin took a meeting the summer of 2015 with the Long Island chapter of the Oath Keepers. Also volunteering for his campaign is the Long Island Loud Majority, which has been labeled an anti-government group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

We asked Zeldin about the Long Island Loud Majority and if he condemns right-wing extremism. 

"I would just say it's important to meet some of these people," Zeldin told me. "Ask them a thousand questions and I'll tell you what, I've met a whole lot of people. Morgan's takeaway will not be that that person is a right-wing extremist." 


Zeldin has momentum on his side, making this the closest a Republican has gotten to the governor's seat since Gov. George Pataki two decades ago. While he is still trailing behind Hochul in the polls, he has worked to narrow the gap over recent weeks. Real Clear Politics has now labeled the race as a toss-up. 

"We can be in charge of our own government, we need to take control of our own future as voters in these final days," Zeldin said. "Make sure we all come out and vote. I'd be honored to serve as your next governor. And I believe that I would do a great job."

The last day of early voting is Sunday, Nov. 6

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. The polls in New York will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

This story has been edited to correct when Zeldin met with the Oath Keepers.