A red tsunami didn’t quite hit New York, but there definitely was a shift in the state’s politics.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, the incumbent Democrat, defeated Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., in what turned out to be a tightly contested governor’s race.
New York is, of course, a reliably blue state. That Zeldin made this a close call is a significant accomplishment.
Perhaps just as importantly, Republicans picked up U.S. House seats from New York and toppled Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Given how close the partisan balance is in the House, these races may end up determining whether Republicans reclaim the majority.
This is hardly a pop-the-champagne moment for the right or for Republicans in New York, but it does represent an erosion of Democrat dominance that a few years ago seemed absolute. And that’s even after a bunch of people moved to Florida.
Nicole Gelinas, writing in the New York Post, broke down some of the numbers:
On Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo eked out a tiny victory four years ago, 49% to 48%. This time around, Zeldin won by a double-digit margin, 67% to 33%.
That may be expected, with Staten Island voters not as put off by President Donald Trump and his antics as the rest of the city is.
But in Brooklyn four years ago, Cuomo won 81% to 13% (third parties won the rest). This year, Zeldin earned a full 29% of the vote, to Hochul’s 71%.
In Queens in 2018, Cuomo won 78% to 18%. This year, Zeldin garnered a full third of the vote, to Hochul’s two-thirds.
So some parts of New York City actually shifted right by significant margins. What delivered the state for Hochul was high turnout in the city overall and a strong showing in the western suburbs of New York state.
The issues that put the state in play for Republicans centered around the economy, but, even more so, rising crime. This was a focal point of Zeldin’s campaign in the final days, and for good reason.
New York City pulled itself out of its crime-ridden decades thanks to crime-fighting reforms that began under Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s. Recent trends suggest that a return to those bad old days is possible if crime continues to spin out of control.
After the George Floyd riots of 2020, violent crime rose dramatically in New York City, as it did in many cities across the country. The summer saw a drop in murders compared to 2021, but also a sharp increase in crime overall.
New York Police Department statistics for July illustrate the problem:
Overall index crime in New York City increased in July 2022, by 30.5% compared with July 2021 (11,619 v. 8,906). Six of the seven major index-crime categories saw increases, driven by a 40.6% increase in grand larceny (4,588 v. 3,262), a 37.2% increase in robbery (1,730 v. 1,261), and a 25.6% rise in burglary (1,325 v. 1,055).
Given these worries, it would make sense that New York’s governor would be focused like a laser on getting crime under control. Not wanting to be a victim of violent crime is a generally bipartisan issue. Instead of looking for answers to this problem, however, Hochul dismissed the crime surge as a “conspiracy” while embracing policies that exacerbate the problem.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton before the election, Hochul insisted that the crime surge had been simply cooked up by political opponents to hurt Democrats.
“These are master manipulators,” Hochul said. “They have this conspiracy going all across America trying to convince people in Democratic states that they’re not as safe. Well, guess what? They’re also not only election deniers, they’re data deniers.”
The governor followed up by saying that Republican-led states actually are more dangerous and that the “safer places are the Democratic states.”
As explained in the New York Post by crime expert Rafael A. Mangual, a Manhattan Institute scholar and author of “Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong, and Who It Hurts Most,” the contention that red states have more crimes is deceitful.
The high crime in some red states is almost entirely a product of Democrat-run big cities.
Mangual uses the example of Louisiana to illustrate this, writing:
In 2019, the FBI’s uniform crime report showed the state as seeing 544 murders, giving it a murder rate of 11.7 per 100,000. That year, New Orleans saw 121 of those murders; Baton Rouge had 70; and Shreveport saw 35. All had Democratic mayors. And, with a collective population of 802,702, those three cities had a much higher 2019 murder rate of 28.1 per 100,000.
The problem is, it’s hard to fool voters when it comes to this issue.
People tend to know when their communities are being affected by rising crime rates. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that it was activist Democrats who most eagerly jumped aboard the disastrous “defund the police” campaign.
Although some of the news stories regarding New York crime and lawlessness may be exaggerated, there is no doubt that the trend is bad and deeply concerning. Once a neighborhood, community, or city experiences a crime surge, it can take a long time to reverse, even under ideal circumstances.
If anything, the “conspiracy” is pretending that there isn’t a problem.
Although much of the spike in urban crime has to do with decisions made in cities, the governor plays a role, too. In March, Hochul unveiled a 10-point “public safety” plan that would have somewhat curtailed the state’s “bail reform” laws.
These laws went into effect at the beginning of 2020. Since then, crime has exploded. The Manhattan Institute laid out the ugly statistics:
For 27 years, from 1993 to early 2020, under the ‘old’ bail laws and the ‘broken’ criminal justice system, index crime in New York City steadily declined by nearly 76%. In just two years of the new bail laws and other progressive reforms, index crimes in New York City rose 36.6%. There are many reasons for the rise in crime, but as the analysis below will demonstrate, it is not coincidental that the sudden, massive increase in city crime came at precisely the same time as the release of 2,000 career criminals from city jails.
Bail “reform” isn’t the only reason the numbers spiked, but putting more criminals back on the street surely hasn’t helped. Hochul had a chance to curtail these laws. But when progressives in the Legislature balked, she folded and only minor changes were made.
When New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, called for a special session of the Legislature in July to address the bail laws and crime spike, Hochul again punted.
In addition to her failure to take charge, Hochul has the power to remove radical New York City District Attorney Alvin Bragg, but elected not to do it.
Immediately after his election, Bragg released a “Day One” memo highlighting a plan to stop charging people for committing serious crimes—including resisting arrest, prostitution, and trespassing. Bragg backed off after the public outcry. Nevertheless, his tenure hasn’t been impressive.
Hochul occasionally has criticized Bragg and even threatened to remove him, but ultimately took no steps to get rid of the district attorney.
The soft-on-crime criticism clearly got to Hochul and Democrats. Hochul eventually tempered her “conspiracy” talk about crime and at least signaled that she feels your pain, so to speak. New York cops suddenly showed up in the subway weeks before the election in a blatant move by Hochul and Adams to placate voters.
Will the cops stay now that the election is over? We’ll see.
Hochul and company may still do nothing about crime other than token initiatives to soothe voters, but the issue certainly seems to have changed New York’s electorate. It may do so further if Democrats continue to let this fire burn.
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