Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) Credit: Bloomberg/Bridget Bennett

For a glimpse of where the New York GOP thinks the pulse of this year’s state elections will be, look no further than Lee Zeldin’s Facebook ads.

A missive launched last week focuses on criminal justice issues and denigrates Democratic efforts to modify the state’s law enforcement, bail and parole systems.

The ad’s rhetorical strategies include disdainful wordplay — critiquing the parole changes of the Less Is More Act by dubbing it the "Less is Moronic Act." There is an embedded video that highlights recent anecdotes of eye-catching crime — such as the man who set fire to what the ad calls a "public Christmas tree": the one outside the New York City headquarters of Fox News. And in general, the Zeldin campaign argues that the overhaul of bail is putting more people on the streets to commit crime — a subject that was widely embraced by victorious GOP campaigns for district attorney in Nassau and Suffolk counties last fall.

The anecdotes and the general aura of cashless bail have for months now spread more rapidly than clear evidence about what the overhaul has or hasn’t done. State data meant to measure the outcomes of people released from custody has been muddled and revised, as the Albany Times Union has reported, but in broad strokes, a single-digit percentage of recent cases related to the new state bail laws led to a violent felony rearrest while the previous case was pending.

The raw rearrest number is not zero, however, providing the grist for anecdotal cases. And swaths of New York have seen increases in some crime categories, as has been the case nationally during the pandemic.

Asked about the ad’s focus, Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz pointed to a December Siena poll finding crime and economic opportunity as voters’ top two Albany priorities for 2022.

Hence the GOP’s adoption of the tried and true law and order playbook so far: "We can simply surrender," the Zeldin ad says, "or we can save our state."