In an effort to help Democrats win the House, New York Governor Kathy Hochul is toughening her public safety agenda.
This is a tactical rethink after Republicans pulled off a string of unexpected victories in the state’s congressional contests by capitalizing on voter anxiety over crime.
The adjustment comes following a catastrophic midterm election cycle for New York Democrats in which Republicans took four U.S. seats last year, which enabled them to take control of the chamber.
Hochul’s apparent failure to make a robust, top-of-the-ticket answer to voters’ concerns about crime, a key Republican theme that resonated with voters in New York City’s suburbs, was blamed by many, including many in her own party, for the Democratic defeats.
The governor has been promoting centrist changes to the state’s bail regulations as well as a slew of new gun control laws before the election next year.
Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently spoke at a news conference on gun violence prevention.
Hochul remarked, “You can’t say you’re serious about fighting crime if you’re not serious about getting illegal guns off our streets.” Democrats, states with a Democratic majority, and mayors are all concerned with keeping their constituents secure.
The reset places the centrist Hochul at the heart of a national debate between the liberal and conservative wings of the Democratic Party over how to effectively address concerns about public safety while reducing inequity in law enforcement.
Republicans are expected to keep criticizing Democrats over New York’s bail laws, which were changed in 2019 to do away with an outdated system that let richer criminal suspects pay cash bail to leave jail while awaiting trial while imprisoning the less wealthy because they lacked the means to do so.
The majority of those charged with nonviolent offenses are exempt from paying a fee under the new system, allowing them to avoid jail time while their cases are being heard in court.
The GOP is wagering that voters won’t view Hochul’s changes to the bail statute as having addressed its flaws because they claim the new bail system is returning seasoned criminals to society.
No one is going to buy that, according to David Laska, spokesman for the New York Republican Party, “until they see real change on the ground.”