Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York governor, is on board with New York City Mayor Eric Adams when it comes to the topic of bail reform – and he wants voters to know about it.
Zeldin, a congressman from Long Island, held a news conference Thursday to support Adams’ call for a special legislative session in Albany to roll back more of the state’s 2019 bail reforms, which require judges to release defendants as they await trial in most misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases.
Adams, who has endorsed fellow Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul and once called himself the “Biden of Brooklyn,” doesn’t see eye to eye with Zeldin – a conservative who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election and is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump – on much of anything.
But both men have made changing the state’s bail laws a prominent part of their policy platforms, with Zeldin hoping that lingering concern over rising crime can help propel him to the governor’s office the same way it helped Adams win last year’s mayoral race.
“My support for the mayor's position is going to make a number of Democrats uncomfortable,” Zeldin told reporters on a Zoom call. “It might even make the mayor uncomfortable because I'm in a different party. But I look forward to working with the New York City mayor because, for our shared constituents, for New Yorkers, and also for people who like to visit their family members and just come visit New York City, we have to make this city safe again.”
Zeldin’s embrace of the mayor’s push for a special session comes as crime remains up across the five boroughs, with the latest data showing a 37% jump in major crime complaints – they include rape, robbery, and grand larceny, though murders and shootings are down – this year compared to the same period last year.
It also comes as Zeldin is trying to appeal to New York City voters – which vote overwhelmingly Democratic – ahead of the November 8th election against Hochul, who is seeking her first full term.
In the prior three elections, now-former Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode a huge margin of victory in the city to cruise to a statewide win. In 2014, challenger Rob Astorino actually collected more votes than Cuomo outside New York City – but Cuomo still clobbered him statewide after picking up more than 75% of the vote in the five boroughs.
Adams, however, made clear this week that he won’t be embracing Zeldin’s support.
After Zeldin tweeted Wednesday in support of Adams’ special-session push, Adams pointed to Zeldin’s opposition to new gun-control measures.
“Congressman, you can’t claim to want to keep New Yorkers safe while opposing common sense gun safety laws, as you have throughout your entire career,” the mayor tweeted.
Crime has been the centerpiece of Zeldin’s gubernatorial campaign, but it’s taken a particular focus since last week, when a man holding a pointed keychain crashed a Zeldin event and briefly tussled with the congressman in suburban Rochester.
That man, 43-year-old David Jakubonis of the village of Fairfield, was in federal court Thursday for a detention hearing after he was charged with assaulting a congressman, a federal crime.
Magistrate Judge Marian Payson reserved a decision on whether Jakubonis should be released ahead of his trial, requesting more details on his mental health records as well as video of his post-arrest interview with law enforcement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A status hearing is scheduled for August 24th.
Zeldin has used Jakubonis’ case as an example of the shortcomings of the state’s current bail laws. Before federal prosecutors got involved, Monroe County authorities initially charged Jakubonis with second-degree attempted assault, a non-violent felony that allowed him to briefly walk free after his arrest.
But the decision to level the nonviolent felony charge has drawn scrutiny from those who noted that Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is a Zeldin supporter who attended the campaign event and was once announced as his campaign co-chair. Doorley has recused herself from the case.
On Thursday, Zeldin said he could see the justification for either the attempted assault charge or a stronger violent felony charge, which would have allowed a local judge to require Jakubonis to post bail.
“If I was to put back on my prosecutor's hat, the two key elements to look at, in my opinion, that would justify a stronger charge would be the fact that he had that weapon in his hand, going towards my neck area saying ‘you're done, you’re done, you're done,’” Zeldin said.