On Sunday afternoon in the small Long Island town of Shirley, three teenagers were walking in a suburban neighborhood when someone in a passing car shot at them. One fled, but the two others were hit. They dived into the bushes of a nearby yard and under the porch of the house it was attached to — a house that happened to belong to Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor.
The sitting U.S. representative and his wife, Diana, were not at home when the shooting occurred. But in a press conference on Sunday, Zeldin said that his two teenage daughters were in the kitchen doing homework when they heard the shots and that “one of the bullets was actually found 30 feet” from where his daughters were sitting. The injuries to the 17-year-olds who were hit were not life-threatening.
The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement that there is no evidence of a “connection between the shooting and the residence.” It’s unlike the strange situation in July in which Zeldin was targeted onstage by a knife-wielding attacker. (After that incident, the attacker was immediately released without bail by a political ally of Zeldin’s, underlining his campaign message in a way that Democrats claimed was a little too convenient.)
Like many Republicans this midterm cycle, Zeldin has been running a campaign stressing crime rates and public safety, reiterating that message in his appearance on Sunday. “Like so many New Yorkers, crime has literally made its way to our front door,” he said. And while Zeldin faces a steep uphill battle to unseat Governor Kathy Hochul, it’s possible that the scary proximity of the shooting could charge his campaign in the final weeks, as polling suggests that a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters all consider crime a major issue. Of course, it’s also possible that the shooting will not have an impact in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one and Governor Hochul has played up Zeldin’s connections to Trump, including his January 6 vote against the election certification.
Either way, the shooting will likely feature prominently in Zeldin’s final push for a major midterm upset. “This is day after day after day,” he said in an appearance on Fox News on Monday. “And there are a lot of parents, there are a lot of families, dealing with this reality of rising crime in New York. For us, fortunately, my daughters knew exactly how to respond. But listen — they were just sitting there at the kitchen table doing homework and bullets started going off all around them.”