New York Democrats reaped what they had sowed in the midterm elections, failing to defend their criminal justice reforms in the face of rising crime, while Republicans stayed true to their law-and-order platform.
Ultimately, it costs Democrats seats in New York, where Republicans flipped three seats and won two open races. Those five seats were pivotal in helping the GOP amass what might end up being a 222-213 House majority in Washington, D.C.
"This was a nationally coordinated campaign by the Republicans, and we did not, frankly, rise to the occasion to explain to people what we did do and how the point was and still is not to criminalize poverty — it's to criminalize criminals," state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told Politico.
Instead of blaming the bad policy that failed the New York citizens, Democrats believe it was a failure in the messaging.
"New York was arguably the epicenter of a diverse and highly energized criminal justice reform movement — but you wouldn't know it based on the rhetoric from this past election cycle," SKDK Senior VP Jason Kaplan told Politico.
New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul was reelected over law-and-order Republican nominee Lee Zeldin after infamously asking him "why do you care" about violent crime in a gubernatorial debate.
"This is about making sure that people know that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe, and perhaps that message was not delivered," Hochul told reporters recently. "Obviously, that was not successful in certain communities who were hearing other voices and seeing other messaging and seeing other advertising with a contrary message about our priorities.
"I suspect more could have been done to make sure that people know that this was a high priority of ours."
One of the signature losses for Democrats was of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., the chairperson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Rep.-elect Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., capitalized on Maloney's past boast of making ending cash bail a "top priority."
"It was our inability to speak to voters in suburban New York City — again under any iteration of the maps that — that could have made the difference," Maloney told MSNBC after losing. "I think we own that as Democrats."
Still, Democrats are bewildered on how their crime policies failed them at the ballot box.
"The perception people have is they don't feel safe, and that's something we have to deal with, but, again, I'm just not sure what people want," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, told Politico.
While the people have spoken at the ballot box, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins says she is willing to listen, but unwilling to accept the vote as a rebuke of Democrats' crime policy.
"I'm always open to talk to people if there is more information and more data," she told Politico. "But again, every single research that has been done has really shown there is no correlation between the bail reforms we did and crime."
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