New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is toughening her public safety platform to help Democrats retake control of the House, a strategic reset after Republicans won upsets in the state’s congressional races by seizing on concerns over crime. The recalibration follows a disastrous midterm election cycle for Democrats in New York after Republicans flipped four U.S. House seats last year. The Democratic losses were blamed by many on Hochul’s apparent failure to mount a forceful, top of the ticket response to fears about crime, a key Republican point that resonated with voters in New York City’s suburbs. Ahead of next year’s election, the governor has begun amplifying centrist tweaks to the state’s bail laws as well as a slate of new policies on firearms, reports the Associated Press. “You can’t say you’re serious about fighting crime if you’re not serious about getting illegal guns off our streets,” Hochul said at a gun crime prevention event with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Democrats, Democratic-led states and mayors are focused on one thing, and that’s keeping our citizens safe.”
The reset puts the moderate Hochul in the middle of a national debate between the Democratic Party’s liberal wing and its centrists over how best to reduce injustice in law enforcement while responding to concerns about public safety. Republicans are expected to continue hammering Democrats over New York’s bail laws, which were overhauled in 2019 to eliminate an old system that allowed wealthier people accused of crimes to pay cash to get out of jail while awaiting trial, while imprisoning poorer people because they couldn’t afford to buy their freedom. Under the new system, most people accused of nonviolent crimes aren’t required to pay money to stay out of jail while their cases are pending. The GOP, which says the new bail system is putting hardened criminals back on the street, is betting voters won’t see Hochul’s adjustments to the bail law as having addressed its weaknesses. “Until people see meaningful change on the ground, no one’s going to buy it,” said David Laska, spokesman for the New York Republican Party. Hochul has touted this year’s changes — which allow judges greater discretion over whether to jail a suspect before trial — as a platform for congressional candidates to show voters that the party takes public safety seriously.