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Voter Turnout in New York Gubernatorial Primary Drops Sharply from 2018 Surge


Voter turnout back down (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Voter turnout in New York City and State declined dramatically – by nearly half – from the 2018 Democratic primary for governor to the one that closed on Tuesday. 

In the race for the party's nomination, Governor Kathy Hochul won – by a wide margin – with close to the same number of votes Cynthia Nixon received in 2018 when she lost the Democratic nomination to incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo by a wide margin. The turnout this month was closer to other Democratic gubernatorial primaries over the last twenty years, which have consistently been among the lowest in the nation, though it was significantly larger than the 2014 primary.

Within that low-turnout environment, Hochul trounced her opponents, winning in a three-way race with roughly the same vote share Cuomo won in 2018. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who ran a progressive campaign to her left, came in second and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who ran in a similar centrist lane to Hochul's but to her right on crime and taxes, came in third.

With about 98% of districts reporting results (not including some absentee ballots), Hochul won with about 67% of the vote, compared with Williams' 19%, and Suozzi's 13%. In New York City, where Williams had the home field advantage over the Buffalo native and the Long Island congressman, the gap was slightly narrower: Hochul won 60% of the vote, with Williams pulling in 28%, and Suozzi 12%.

According to preliminary data, just 865,000 registered Democrats — or 13% of the roughly 6.5 million registered Democrats across the state as of the most recent Board of Elections data — voted for governor (a number will grow slightly as final ballots are counted and reported).

That's compared to 1,558,000 Democratic primary voters, or 25%, in 2018 and the 574,000 Democratic primary voters in 2014, an abysmal 10% of registered party members.

New York City saw a similar pattern with 446,000 Democratic voters (13% turnout) compared with 913,000 (27%) in 2018 and 298,000 (9%) in 2014. The crowded, competitive Democratic primary for mayor last year had 942,000 ballots counted, roughly 25% of registered Democrats.

Democratic enrollment has increased statewide since 2014, growing from 5.9 to 6.5 million registered voters. The New York City rolls have grown too, jumping about 220,000 between 2014 and 2018, and growing a smaller 90,000 since then. Enrollment and turnout trends leading up to and during the 2018 election appear to have had several causes including the response to Republican Donald Trump’s election as president, intensifying intra-party conflict involving then-Governor Cuomo, and enhanced local attention on the balance of power in the New York State Senate, which shifted to Democratic hands after that year’s elections.

Voting rights advocates hoped that syncing state and congressional primary dates, as state lawmakers did in 2019, would help boost turnout. But that couldn't be tested this year, after a state judge postponed congressional and State Senate primaries to August after ruling newly drawn district lines invalid. This was the first gubernatorial primary held in June, rather than September in years. Governor Hochul and lawmakers then decided not to pursue shifting the June statewide and Assembly primaries to August, in a move that appeared to help incumbents. 

The Democratic race for governor was in some ways a rematch of the 2018 lieutenant governor primary between an incumbent Hochul and Williams, but with the addition of Suozzi and a vastly altered political landscape stirring the electoral calculus.

In 2018, the Democratic primary for governor was a two-candidate field with Nixon running against a second-term Cuomo on a progressive platform challenging the entrenched political ethos he cultivated. Williams, then a City Council member, was offering a progressive alternative to then-Lieutenant Governor Hochul. While Cuomo received roughly 66% of the Democratic vote against Nixon, Hochul beat Williams with just 53%.

The Nixon-Cuomo primary was also the first major election since the 2016 presidential contest and was widely seen as a referendum on the Trump era, where progressive and more moderate Democrats, alike, were galvanized to vote. It also contained a series of heated State Senate primaries, in which progressive insurgents challenged (and mostly beat) the breakaway group of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, – another unique draw to the polls.

The Lieutenant Governor's race was slightly closer, with Antonio Delgado, Hochul's chosen running-mate and a former congressman, receiving about 57% of the Democratic vote. Progressive activist Ana María Archila, Williams' running-mate, received 23% of the vote, and Suozzi's running-mate, former City Council Member Diana Reyna, got 13%. Again, in New York City, the margin between the Democrats was narrower, with Delgado's 56% compared to Archila's 30% (Reyna's share was virtually the same).

Archila in some ways ran a more spirited campaign than Williams' and cultivated some high-profile progressive endorsements that he did not, including Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, and Nydia Velazquez, and State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, among many others. Both were far outspent by their incumbent rivals, Williams by many millions of dollars.

The Republican Primary
The Republican gubernatorial primary was a four-way race won by Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin with 44% of the vote. Andrew Giuliani, a former White House aide to President Trump and son of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, garnered 23% of the Republican vote, according to preliminary data. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the 2014 nominee for governor, and businessman Harry Wilson received 18% and 15%, respectively.

Republican primary turnout from 2010, the last time New York had a GOP gubernatorial race, between Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino, declined slightly overall and even increased in New York City. Statewide turnout was 447,000 (16% turnout) so far, compared with 480,000 (17%) in 2010. In New York City, 50,000 Republicans cast ballots for governor, 10% of registered voters, compared with 44,000, or 9%, in 2010.

Republican voter enrollment is up from 2010 in New York City but down overall statewide. Independent voters now outnumber Republicans statewide, and by a large number in New York City.

Over a fifth of registered voters, roughly 1,155,000 New Yorkers, are not affiliated with either major party and did not vote for nominees for governor and lieutenant governor.

Upstate-Downstate, Urban-Rural
According to an analysis from the CUNY Mapping Service, Democratic turnout tended to be higher in urban centers like Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany. It also saw a boost in the Hudson Valley, where Delgado hails from and in the Finger Lakes region. The latter is the home of Tompkins County, a liberal bastion in upstate New York that candidate Zephyr Teachout, a lawyer and activist, won in her unsuccessful 2014 primary against Cuomo.

The Seneca Lake region of the Finger Lakes is also ground zero for the battle over fossil fuel-powered crypto-mining. Williams and Archila spent some of the campaign criticizing Hochul’s and Delgado's reticence to opine on legislation to place a two-year moratorium on reopening closed fossil fuel plants -- and the generous sums crypto-currency industry leaders have donated to them or spent on their behalf.

Republican turnout, as a percentage, was highest in rural upstate regions and in Suffolk County on Long Island, where Zeldin received a major home-town boost. Zeldin won on Long Island and across much of upstate, while Giuliani did particularly well in the five boroughs where Republican regard for his father is still quite strong, Astorino did well in his Westchester base, and Wilson performed strongest in the upstate area near where he grew up.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max Politics Podcast: Breaking Down the Results of Statewide and Assembly Primary Elections


Voting 2022 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


June 29, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Breaking Down the Results for Statewide and Assembly Primary Elections

Jeff Coltin, senior reporter at City & State NY, joined the show to break down the results of the June 2022 New York primary elections for statewide and Assembly races.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter @TweetBenMax. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.

Read more: Max Politics Podcast: Breaking Down the Results of Statewide and Assembly Primary Elections

Lee Zeldin Wins Republican Nomination for New York Governor


Lee Zeldin, center, on the campaign trail (photo: Zeldin campaign)


U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who represents New York’s 1st District on Long Island, won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday. Zeldin appeared headed to a fairly wide margin of victory in a highly competitive race, defeating three opponents in the primary: businessman Harry Wilson, former Trump White House aide Andrew Giuliani, and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was the 2014 Republican nominee for governor.

The race was called by Spectrum News on Tuesday night around 10:30 p.m. as Zeldin's margin had become clear enough.

Zeldin was considered the frontrunner throughout the Republican primary. He jumped into the race early and quickly accrued endorsements from party officials, before winning the designation of the state GOP at its convention and many Republican leaders across the state. State Party Chair Nick Langworthy has been a big booster and close ally throughout the race, and Zeldin also has had the backing of the Conservative Party. Just last week, his campaign was bolstered by the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence.

Notably, former President Donald Trump did not make an endorsement in the race, though some of the candidates, including Zeldin, made their best efforts to appeal to the former president and even emulated his battle tactics during the three debates in the race. Zeldin mimicked the former president’s tendency to nickname his critics – calling his opponents “Never Trumper” Harry Wilson and “Rolex Rob” Astorino, for instance. Zeldin was among the Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump falsely said was stolen, on the night of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Zeldin also twice voted against impeaching Trump.

Giuliani emerged as his closest competitor, benefiting from the name recognition that comes with being the son of Rudy Giuliani, the former two-term mayor of New York City and attorney for Trump. Wilson attempted to run on a more moderate “outsider” lane focused on turning around the state, but his resume and electability message did not land well enough with the party faithful.

Zeldin now heads into a general election matchup against Governor Kathy Hochul, who won her Democratic primary on Tuesday against U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, as well as the nominees of smaller parties.

Zeldin’s running-mate is Alison Esposito, the Republican Party’s lieutenant governor candidate and an NYPD deputy inspector, who got the party’s nomination uncontested on Tuesday.

Zeldin and Esposito face an uphill challenge. No Republican has won a statewide race since 2002, when Governor George Pataki secured a third term. For a general election win, Zeldin will have to appeal to conservative and moderate Democrats as well as independents, since registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans two-to-one and independents outnumber Republicans. His pivot to the general election as a Trump-supporting conservative firebrand will necessitate keeping the focus of the race on crime, taxes, and the economy.

Hochul is also ahead in fundraising and name recognition, and has the power of the office to wield as well as at least one poll showing her beating Zeldin by 24 points, though it was taken well before the general election begins.

Republicans have some cause for optimism, after making gains locally across the state last year and in a midterm election where Democrats are expecting a backlash from voters based on inflation and other factors. Zeldin and his fellow Republicans have also been laser focused on a rise in violent crime during the pandemic which, polls repeatedly showed, has been the top issue for voters.

Still, the recent Supreme Court rulings, especially in overturning Roe v. Wade, could make for a significant advantage for Democrats, while Hochul will attempt to paint Zeldin as anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, and anti-democracy based on his past votes in the State Legislature and Congress, as well as recent statements.

Zeldin holds a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany and graduated with a law degree from Albany Law School at the age of 23. After law school, he served in the U.S. Army for four years in various roles including military intelligence officer, prosecutor, and military magistrate. In 2006, he was deployed to Iraq as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Two years later, Zeldin first ran for Congress, unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop in New York’s 1st District. In 2010, after practicing law in the intervening years, he successfully ran for State Senate, and was later reelected in 2012. In 2014, he took another shot at running for the 1st congressional district and won. He is currently serving his fourth term and is forgoing reelection to run for governor.

Zeldin has touted his various achievements in the State Senate and in Congress. As a state legislator, he chaired the committee on consumer protection. He led the effort to repeal the MTA Payroll Tax for 80% of employers, cosponsored a property tax cap that became law, and worked on veterans issues. He was also among the legislators who voted against New York’s Marriage Equality Act of 2011.

As a congressional representative, he touts a long list of accomplishments including introducing and passing into law the Adult Day Health Care legislation for disabled and elderly veterans, and opening a new health care clinic for veterans. While Trump was in office, Zeldin ingratiated himself with the president, voting with his agenda 88.8% of the time, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. He rarely spoke out against the president, despite Trump’s long history of public remarks that broke political norms.

Zeldin has raised about $10.2 million, transferred another $1.2 million to his campaign, and has spent about $9.2 million, leaving him with about $2.2 million for the general election, as of Monday, June 27, according to State Board of Elections campaign finance filings.

As governor has said he will try to repeal the state’s bail reforms (which were passed in 2019 and then subsequently watered down somewhat in 2020 and this year), and other criminal justice reforms approved by the Democrat-led state Legislature including limits on solitary confinement. He has proposed allowing judges to consider a “dangerousness standard” when setting bail, and amending legislation that raised the age of criminal responsibility to give judges more discretion with adolescent offender cases.

He has proposed increased penalties on looting businesses, enacting a Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, and has promised to hire more police officers statewide. Zeldin is also in favor of maintaining the doctrine of qualified immunity, which protects police from civil liability, and opposes calls to “Defund the Police.” And he has also proposed several measures that would make the parole process tougher for state inmates.

With inflation at record levels, Zeldin has promised to take steps to put money back in the pockets of New Yorkers, though he has provided few concrete plans to do so. He has said he will lower income and property taxes and cut state spending. He also wants to repeal the state’s ban on fracking to open up more opportunities for natural gas and oil drilling in the state to lower energy costs, while also approving new gas pipelines and suspending the state gas tax.

Zeldin has celebrated the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a state law that restricted the concealed carrying of firearms. He has also broadly criticized the state’s gun control laws, among the strongest in the country, calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act, a groundbreaking package which banned the most dangerous assault weapons, among other measures.

Zeldin has said that, on day one, he would rescind all covid mandates requiring masking and vaccination and that he would rehire state employees that were terminated for refusing to be vaccinated. He has also railed against New York’s Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which codified Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law and indicated he would like to appoint an anti-abortion state health commissioner.

As a reserve duty member of the military, Zeldin also has a lengthy plan for veterans including pledges to eliminate veteran homelessness, expanding Veterans Treatment Courts and other health care supports, establishing a new protected class for veterans under Human Rights Law, and more. 

Zeldin has proposed a 10-point “Reform Albany” plan that includes term limits for statewide officials, overhauling the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (which is already underway), and appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. But he’s also proposed instituting a voter identification law, which has long been considered by critics as a method of suppressing voting, particularly among communities of color.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Kathy Hochul Wins Democratic Nomination for New York Governor


Gov. Kathy Hochul (photo: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


Governor Kathy Hochul emerged victorious in the Democratic primary Tuesday, handily defeating her challengers, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. The race was called by the Associated Press shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m. as Hochul's wide margin quickly emerged.

New York’s first female governor, Hochul ascended to the position from Lieutenant Governor upon then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s August 2021 resignation and she is attempting to win her first term as the state’s chief executive.

"It's really a hard time for our state in light of what's happened in Washington," Hochul told reporters at her election night party, shortly after giving a victory speech. "And I want them to know that I'm a fighter, I'm going to be out there making sure that we protect New York values because they're just part of who we are. And we'll fight the Republican extremism, we'll fight...Trump's candidates this November all the way and I know that this community, the communities across the state are gonna be with us. So I'm feeling really good."

Heading into that fall general election, Hochul will face the Republican gubernatorial nominee, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who beat three other candidates to win his primary race, and other smaller party nominees. Hochul will now formally form a ticket with Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, who she appointed to the role just last month after her first choice, Brian Benjamin, resigned after facing federal public corruption charges. Delgado won his own Democratic primary Tuesday despite being in office and in the race less than two months.

Polling suggests that Hochul will be strongly favored to win in a state where no Republican has won statewide in 20 years. Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one in the state, though independent voters and moderate Democrats may be crucial in deciding the general election. Hochul held a commanding lead in a head-to-head matchup with Zeldin in a SurveyUSA poll, besting him by a 24-point margin in a survey well in advance of the race that is about to unfold.

Hochul came into the primary with significant advantages over her opponents including name recognition, generally positive approval ratings, an especially hefty campaign war chest built with broad support from wealthy donors, and the backing of many elected officials and powerful labor unions.

Hochul also had the benefits of accomplishments during her brief but busy time as governor. She passed a $220 billion budget that invested billions in health care, housing, and transportation, hundreds of millions in climate action, expanded child care, and provided tax relief to middle-class New Yorkers and small businesses. The state legislative session also saw the passage of major pieces of legislation protecting voting rights, strengthening gun laws, and expanding abortion protections — Hochul quickly signed these into law, giving her a prominent platform just ahead of primary day.

In fact, throughout the months and days leading up to the primary vote, Hochul was able to hold a long series of government events cementing her position, including celebrations of budget outcomes, new announcements, bill-signings, and more. She ran on those recent accomplishments, as well as bringing a steady hand to state government rocked by scandal and a state devastated by COVID-19, and the implementation of programs and projects she launched in her early tenure — including expansion of child care, major infrastructure improvements, and more.

At the same time, she set a frenetic fundraising pace that put her well ahead of her opponents, raising as much as $34 million since becoming governor. She has blanketed the state with more than $13 million worth of ads promoting her record and candidacy, and also boosting Delgado. Overall in this election cycle, as of Monday, June 27, she has raised more than $39 million for her campaign, has spent nearly $26 million, and has nearly $13 million left heading into the general election, according to State Board of Elections campaign finance records.

"This is not for my ego," Hochul said Tuesday night about her wide margin of victory, when asked by reporters. "This just says that people are crying for a new kind of leadership. They've never had a woman as their governor before. They weren't sure what to expect. And 10 months later, to have this scale of support is humbling to me, but also opens the door for all women. All women now know that there are no barriers because a woman has succeeded, at least the first 10 months already, in the most rough and tumble state in the nation. It's not for the faint of heart. You have to have really steel running through your veins the way I do but also heart and compassion. And we're showing them a different way of governing. And that's what I set out to do back in August. And I feel we've been successful."

Much like her predecessor, Hochul is a moderate Democrat with progressive streaks. Some of her positions have evolved from an early career as a more conservative elected official in Western New York. For example, when she was in Congress, she received an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which also endorsed her for reelection and donated to her campaign. As Erie County Clerk before that, when then-Governor Eliot Spitzer proposed allowing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, Hochul threatened to have potential applicants arrested.

As lieutenant governor and governor, Hochul has shown far more liberal positions on a number of issues, while maintaining some of her prior Democratic bona fides on women’s rights and other topics. As chief executive of New York, she greatly expanded state spending, including use of large amounts of federal pandemic aid, while opposing any new taxes, while expediting middle-class tax cuts already in motion and passing a temporary gas tax holiday in the state budget this year. She also fended off some of the most ambitious progressive asks, which did not have the votes in the Legislature, including “good cause eviction,” single-payer health care, and more, and she pursued rollbacks of criminal justice reforms sought by moderates and conservatives.

Her primary opponents used Hochul’s past and current positions against her in the three debates in the race (Hochul did not attend the first), but Hochul not only discussed her evolution on gun regulations, she also signed into law a major gun control package shortly after the racist mass shooting in Buffalo and is convening a special legislative session to deal with the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision that struck down a state law restricting concealed carrying of guns.

Though she has not gone as far as some to her left would like, Hochul has approved legislation protecting undocumented immigrants. And she advanced new legal protections for abortion providers and recipients and expanded access to contraception, ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade last week.

Hochul is likely to center her action on gun safety and abortion rights in the general election against Zeldin, who celebrated both Supreme Court rulings, is against gun regulations of almost all kinds, and is proudly anti-abortion.

In the primary, Suozzi pitched himself as a “common sense Democrat” and ran a campaign focused heavily on crime and economic issues. But he and Hochul aren’t far apart ideologically and they were both competing for the same voters in more moderate and conservative parts of the state.

Williams, a Brooklyn native, was expected to do well among progressives, who delivered more than a third of the primary vote against Cuomo in the last two primaries, and make a strong showing with voters of color in the city, particularly Black voters. But he ran a relatively lackluster campaign this year that could not come anywhere close to keeping up with the governor’s well-funded operation.

Williams could not turn his campaign into a progressive movement project, and was unable to garner the types of game-changing endorsements he would need: The New York Times editorial board that backed him against Hochul in 2018 went with her this time; Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nydia Velazquez, and Jamaal Bowman all endorsed his running-mate, Ana Maria Archila, for lieutenant governor but did not back Williams, and the same could be said for a number of state legislators.

Hochul’s ten months as governor so far haven’t all been smooth sailing. Despite promising a new era of ethical governance to rid Albany of Cuomo’s various scandals and bullying autocracy, Hochul was embroiled in scandals of her own. She appointed State Senator Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor, only for him to resign within six months after being arrested and indicted on corruption charges. The Legislature then quickly passed a bill that allowed Benjamin to remove his name from the ballot and Hochul appointed U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado to replace him as lieutenant governor.

Hochul’s first budget was delayed, largely because of two last-minute issues she pursued to the dismay of many legislators: bail reform rollbacks and the addition of a $1.4 billion deal to build a new Buffalo Bills stadium, including $850 million in public subsidies. Hochul faced widespread criticism for the stadium move, which smacked of the types of budget maneuvers that Cuomo was known for. Good government groups also pointed to a conflict of interest – the concessions vendor for the current Bills stadium is Delaware North, a firm where Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, is a top executive.

Nonetheless, Hochul has a series of accomplishments that she has touted in her campaign, even if she hasn’t necessarily expressed a larger vision for the four years ahead beyond steadiness and a continued rollout of what she has done so far, especially on child care, affordable housing, infrastructure, and clean energy.

Good government groups did praise her for introducing a series of ethics and transparency proposals when she first became governor. They included ordering state agencies to expedite Freedom of Information requests, proposed term limits for statewide elected officials, replacing the beleaguered Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with an independent ethics watchdog, and mandating sexual harassment training for state workers. Though term limits were not approved, the governor and Legislature did come to an agreement to scrap JCOPE and create a new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. It remains to be seen whether the new agency will be more independent than its predecessor.

Hochul accelerated $1.2 billion in tax cuts to the middle class, which were previously approved in recent years. Her budget included $1 billion in property tax rebates affecting about 2 million households, $1 billion to expand high speed internet coverage to underserved areas, and $100 million for small business relief. She also increased wages for childcare workers, with $75 million in state funding.

Through the budget, Hochul advanced a $10 billion five-year plan for health care workforce development, including $4 billion to provide wage increases and bonuses for workers. Similarly, her long-term plan for housing involves a $25 billion investment over five years to build and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing, including 10,000 units of supportive housing.

Unlike her predecessor, who had an infamously rocky relationship with former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hochul has worked collaboratively with Mayor Eric Adams, who endorsed her for governor. The two have partnered on various initiatives, notably a Subway Safety Plan for the city that involves deploying more police officers and state outreach workers to get homeless people out of the system and into shelter. She also fought for an extension of mayoral control of city schools and bail law changes, though she did not deliver what she and the mayor had wanted on either.

Hochul has promised strict action on the environment to achieve the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019, which sets the state on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. And she has taken steps in that direction. The state budget included a $500 million investment in offshore wind energy infrastructure, a $400 million Environmental Protection Fund, and the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act – an increase of $1.3 billion at Hochul’s behest – which will be proposed as a ballot referendum in the November general election.

But climate activists and progressive elected officials have nonetheless criticized the governor for failing to support a series of bills that would have taken broader and immediate steps to address the climate crisis.

[What is Kathy Hochul's Gubernatorial Campaign Platform?]

The breadth of support for Hochul’s campaign was apparent in the endorsements she secured. She was endorsed by most of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation including U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, and Gregory Meeks; U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She also received support from many state legislators, Mayor Adams, and other elected officials. 

She has the backing of hundreds of state, county and local elected officials and Democratic county organizations across the state. Major labor unions, civic organizations, and political action groups also supported her including the AFL-CIO Of New York State, New York State United Teachers , District Council 37, Transport Workers Union Local 100, 32BJ SEIU, the New York State Nurses Association, Retail, Wholesale And Department Store Union, the Hotel Trades Council, the New York State Public Employees Federation, Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes PAC, Emgage PAC New York Metro, Home Healthcare Workers of America, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, and more.

The editorial boards of The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and The Buffalo News endorsed her as well, as did good government group Citizens Union.

Hochul has had a long career in public service. The Buffalo native has a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.. She worked in the capital at a major law firm before becoming legal counsel and legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. John LaFalce and then an aide to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In 1994, Hochul was elected to her first public office as a Hamburg Town Board member, a position she held for 13 years. In 2007, she was appointed Erie County Clerk, was subsequently elected to a full term and reelected in 2010. In 2011, when Republican congressional Rep. Chris Lee resigned in the 26th District, Hochul won his seat in a four-way special election. She served till 2013 and lost her reflection race to Chris Collins, a Republican.

In 2014, Governor Cuomo tapped Hochul to be his running mate after Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy announced his intention to retire. Hochul would spend the next six-plus years as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor criss-crossing the state to promote the governor’s policies and achievements even as the governor’s team worked sideline her. As this year’s election loomed, Cuomo even sought to replace Hochul on the statewide ticket with a candidate that would better appeal to voters of color.

By then, Hochul had already distanced herself from Cuomo as he was facing a cascading series of scandals including allegations of sexual harassment and assault, an investigation of  his administration’s disastrous handling of covid in nursing homes, the improper use of state resources to write and promote his Covid memoir, and more. In August, Cuomo resigned, paving the way for Hochul to succeed him.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Antonio Delgado Wins Democratic Nomination for Lieutenant Governor, Creating Ticket with Hochul


Antonio Delgado, center (photo: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, a Hudson Valley Democrat and running-mate with Governor Kathy Hochul, won the Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating progressive Ana María Archila and centrist Diana Reyna. Delgado, who only took office and joined the race in May, will formally join Hochul on the general election ballot after she emerged victorious in her primary as well.

"This is the fight of our lives,” Delgado said Tuesday night in a victory speech at the election night party with Hochul. “It's a generational fight. This regressive and reactionary order is trying to reassert itself in this country and all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status must stand together. Our democracy depends on it." 

Delgado, who previously represented New York’s 19th congressional district, resigned from Congress last month and was sworn in as Hochul’s lieutenant governor. He replaced former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, who resigned within six months of being appointed by Hochul after being arrested and indicted on charges of bribery and corruption. Benjamin was already on the primary ballot but the state Legislature rushed through legislation at Hochul’s behest which allowed him to remove himself and for Delgado to run instead. 

With little time as lieutenant governor under his belt, Delgado has mostly touted his Democratic credentials and his accomplishments in Congress, while starting to appear at a variety of Hochul-led announcements and bill-signings. And he had significant resources to do so, with millions of dollars that he raised for his congressional campaign and with additional fundraising assistance from Hochul. He raised $2 million, transferred nearly $4.5 million, and spent about $3.8 million, leaving him with about $2.7 million in cash on hand, as of June 27. 

Besides the advantage of name recognition from being a sitting office-holder, Delgado also benefited from dozens of prominent endorsements from elected officials and powerful labor unions, most of whom also backed Hochul, as well as a barrage of advertisements by his campaign and Hochul’s.

Archila, a longtime community activist, was running with gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams, the New York City Public Advocate, and was hoping to pull off an upset win and become the first Latina to be elected statewide after inspiring a surge of progressive support for her campaign. She had been endorsed by a long list of progressive groups and elected officials including the Working Families Party, U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez, and actor and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. Reyna, a former New York City Council member, was U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s running-mate. Her campaign did not make much of a mark and she came in third, like Suozzi in the gubernatorial primary.  

The position of Lieutenant Governor is mostly ceremonial, but its first in the line of succession in case the governor vacates their post and has also been a springboard for officials seeking to run for the top office. In the past, governors and their lieutenant governors have often had rocky relationships. Hochul’s predecessor, disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo, kept her at arm's length for much of her tenure and sought to replace her on the statewide ticket. 

But Delgado has said he will be a close ally of Hochul’s and he is a reliable centrist in line with her political ideology. A Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, he won his seat in Congress by defeating Rep. John Faso, a Republican, in a swing district and has among the most moderate voting records in the House.

"People are hurting all across the board, struggling to make ends meet, struggling to pay for groceries and gas, struggling to live in a safe neighborhood free of crime and gun violence, struggling to afford housing and health care, struggling to see how education is still the gateway to opportunity,” Delgado said Tuesday night. “Meanwhile, we have so-called leaders exploiting that fear by fanning the flames of hate and division for their own personal gain. It's dark, it's ugly, and it's dangerous, and let's make no mistake about it. [Those] same dark forces that are undermining our freedoms and ripping apart the very fabric of our nation are now trying to take power here in New York.”

“We need real leaders at a time like this,” he continued. “We need public servants, those who humble themselves before the people and actually care about the people, who will fight to unite folks around a common cause and deliver results. We have to combat the forces of hate and division by meeting people where they are, not with a top-down politics but with a bottom-up approach where our strength is our unity."

"New York has always been ahead of the national curve, setting the pace, and now more than ever, we need New York to not only set the pace but to hold the line," he said.

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Supreme Court Rulings Put Gun Control and Abortion at Center of New York Elections


A rally in support of abortion rights (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority issued two major rulings this past week, overturning Roe v. Wade federal abortion rights and striking down a New York State law that limited the concealed carrying of firearms. Both judgements have sprawling national implications, including as this year’s elections will decide control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, with several swing races here in New York.

The decisions have also brought abortion rights and gun control to the forefront in the middle of a state election where Republicans are trying to win the New York governor’s office for the first time in 20 years and the state’s first female governor, Kathy Hochul, is attempting to win her first full term in the position.

The decisions from the court, both of which were 6-3 rulings, came back to back this week, predictably prompting widespread outrage from Democrats and celebration from Republicans — though some in the New York GOP appear to acknowledge that the rulings will likely hurt their party in this state dominated by Democrats and where Republicans are outnumbered by independents, who favor abortion rights and gun regulations by wide margins.

First, on Thursday, the court scrapped a state law that required individuals to show "proper cause" in order to get a license to carry a gun outside their homes. The justices ruled that the law violated the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Several other states including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and California have similar laws that are likely to face legal challenges as a result.

Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature are already working to shore up the state’s law in response, with the governor calling a special session for June 30 (two days after primary election day in statewide races) “to pass new gun safety legislation in response to the United States Supreme Court's decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen."

Following that ruling, in a rejection of a nearly 50-year precedent issued Friday, the court nullified Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the federal constitutional right to abortion. New York will continue to guarantee abortion rights under the Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which codified the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law, as well as a number of other laws and budgetary actions meant to ensure reproductive rights and health care. But in 11 states, abortions have immediately become illegal, while a dozen other states have passed laws that will soon take effect.

The decisions could shake up the gubernatorial election that has so far been largely focused on crime and the economy. It's unclear if a shift could happen in this month’s party primaries, with early voting already underway, but both decisions have given Hochul especially additional leverage in appealing to base Democratic voters -- she has already been airing ads touting her work on both subjects, though her primary opponents have criticized her past conservative record on guns.

On the Republican side, four candidates are seeking the nomination for governor: U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (the frontrunner with the state GOP’s endorsement), former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, businessman Harry Wilson, and former Trump White House aide Andrew Giuliani. All four are opposed to the state’s strict gun regulations and all except Wilson are opposed to abortion. As expected, Zeldin, Giuliani, and Astorino lauded the Supreme Court’s Roe ruling on Friday.

Giuliani said the decision was “a victory for states’ rights but more importantly, the sanctity of life.” 

Zeldin said, “Today is a victory for life, for family, for the constitution, and for federalism.”

In the Democratic primary, Hochul is competing with U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. In recent months, as the repeal of Roe was on the horizon given a leaked majority draft opinion, Hochul signed into law several new laws extending abortion protections and contraceptive access, as well as a raft of gun control measures in the wake of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo. All three Democrats lambasted Friday’s ruling.

“They just set women back in this country, back to the dark ages,” Hochul said.

“American women today will have less freedom than their mothers,” said Suozzi. 

“People will die because of today’s decision,” said Williams in a statement. “People have and will always seek abortions, and criminalizing them, making services inaccessible, only makes them more dangerous.”

Public polling shows that Hochul and Zeldin are favored to win their respective primaries, but turnout is difficult to predict and the polling may not be particularly reliable.

Republicans have been hopeful this year that they might finally be victorious after 20 years of successive Democratic governors by emphasizing rising crime and focusing on pocketbook issues, a strategy that has won them several recent local races across the state. But with abortion rights and gun control taking center stage, more New York voters may gravitate towards the Democratic Party in the November general election.

“If we went back to February and March, the perception was that this election here in New York would be driven by the voters’ perceptions on rising crime and rising inflation,” said Bruce Gyory, an election expert and Democratic strategist. “Now all of a sudden you have very controversial issues in play, you have the Roe v. Wade issue, you have the guns issue.”  

“I think the net effect of all these issues is, it will help Hochul position herself in the primary because it puts her front and center on issues that are remarkably uncontroversial within the Democratic Party,” he added. Those issues also draw independents, he said, who will be able to vote in the general election but not in the closed primaries. “This could fortify Hochul and make whoever wins the Republican primary have a more difficult path,” Gyory said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling and Republican ideology are increasingly out of step with the public, nationwide and particularly in New York. A Siena College poll released June 13 found that a majority of New Yorkers support new gun controls and enhancing abortion protections.

The poll respondents said 76-14% that requiring a permit to acquire a semiautomatic rifle that includes being 21, passing a background check, and taking a safety course would be good for New York as opposed to bad for the state; 58-24% favored outlawing armored vests, except for law enforcement and first responders; and by a margin if 63-19% were in support of stronger legal protections for people seeking or performing abortions in the state.

Nationally, a majority of Americans also support the right to abortion and gun controls, and those numbers have trended upwards for years.

“It's going to be in the hands of voters – not pundits, like me not, not the candidates themselves – what issues voters prioritize,” Gyory said. “The summer months between the Fourth of July and Labor Day tend to be the kiln into which the soft clay of voters' priorities become hardened and and we'll see where we are going into Labor Day and coming out on Labor Day on these issues.”

Predictably, Democratic support for abortion rights and gun control is stronger than with Republicans and independents, but the opinions of the latter group is particularly meaningful for the general election in statewide races, among others. In the Siena poll, 83% of Democrats support strong permit requirements for semiautomatic rifles, compared to 67% of Republicans and 73% of independents. Among Democrats, 77% supported expanding abortion protections, while only 44% of Republicans and 52% of independents felt the same.

But on simply upholding Roe v. Wade, the poll taken earlier in the month it was overturned showed New Yorkers in favor by 60-24%, with Democrats at 73-16% in favor of the Supreme Court upholding the precedent, Republicans at 41-39% to uphold, and independents at 57-25% uphold Roe.

Besides the Governor’s race, Republicans are also hoping to make gains in the State Senate and in the House of Representatives, where Democrats’ are fighting to hold on to their slim national majority. There are a series of key races in New York — including tossups in Districts 3, 18, 19, 22, and New York City’s district 11, where Democrat Max Rose is attempting to unseat Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and regain the seat he held for one term before she beat him in 2020. In such swing districts, Republican candidates, including incumbents, will likely face a barrage of criticism for their votes on abortion and gun control.

Some Republicans have been transparent that they in part came to a bipartisan congressional agreement on newly-enshrined gun safety measures because of the strong support for such steps among suburban voters, many of whom tend to be swing voters. Republicans have made no such movement on abortion, however.

The New York State Democratic Party is already using the Republicans’ positions against them, particularly with Zeldin and Giuliani.

“Zeldin and Giuliani continued utilizing the Trump playbook, promoting far-right conspiracy theories, attacking abortion rights, and pushing a dangerous, pro-gun agenda,” the party said in a press release after the third Republican debate. “With their final pitch to right-wing voters, both candidates assured viewers they would pursue dangerous policies that would drag New York backward.”

Among New York Democrats, there is already a push to further expand abortion rights by passing an Equality Amendment to the state constitution, which would have to be approved in two successive sessions of the Legislature and then be put to a ballot referendum. However, in this year's legislative session, the Legislature could not come to an agreement on the language of the amendment and it did not receive a vote. It does not appear to be on the agenda for the special session Hochul has called for June 30 to deal with gun laws.

In a statement, New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman, said of the Supreme Court decision, “This is an attack on women and anyone in need of abortion care. This is a full-scale assault on pregnant people, their health care providers, and their support systems. This is a racial, gender and economic justice catastrophe.”

She called on the governor to immediately convene a special session of the Legislature to pass the Equality Amendment. “Failing to pass these critical measures this summer is unconscionable – we must protect abortion care and ensure that anyone needing care can get it right here in New York.” she said.

Some New York Republicans appear to be anticipating the Democratic push to expand abortion rights and to center the issue for this year’s elections. State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt noted in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision returns the issue of reproductive rights to the states and will have no effect on New York’s law.

“Despite this reality, Albany politicians will sadly use this ruling to fear-monger and weaponize this issue for their own political gain,” he said. “They will also attempt to expand abortion laws even further, forcing taxpayers to fund abortions, including late term abortions, for non-New Yorkers.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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What is Jumaane Williams' Gubernatorial Campaign Platform?


Jumaane Williams (photo: @JumaaneWilliams)


Jumaane Williams is running alone in the left lane of the Democratic primary for governor, with voting set to conclude on Tuesday, June 28.

Williams, the New York City public advocate, is facing Governor Kathy Hochul, who is seeking her first elected term as the state’s chief executive, and Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island.

A former City Council member from Brooklyn, Williams has long called himself an “activist elected official’ and has had a significant focus on the issues of housing, police reform, and public safety. Those issues, along with others like jobs, remain at the top of his gubernatorial campaign agenda, in which he has a robust housing plan, pledges to pass several high-profile but stalled progressive legislative priorities, and calls for raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his progressive agenda with more investments in health care, climate action, community development, and affordable housing.

Williams argues his work as public advocate and prior, and his status as the “only candidate by and for the working people of New York” in the gubernatorial primary make him uniquely qualified to lead the state.

As public advocate since early 2019, Williams has passed more legislation than anyone else who has held the position.

“I have shown up time and time again…I will show up again once more as governor,” Williams said in a televised Democratic primary debate on June 2. “While we want to normalize our lives, we don't want to go back to where we were.” 

Williams says his health struggles and experience as a first generation New Yorker and public school graduate have helped him to better understand the communities he serves. Williams was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD as a teenager, and said he hopes his visibility through his work in public service inspires young people.

“My tourettes has never defined me, but it has represented a truth about my life and my work,” he said in a campaign ad. “I’m always moving.”

As part of his activism, Williams is known for being in the streets protesting, including getting arrested when advocating for or against certain policies. “An activist elected official must stand up to power, and take to the streets when needed,” Williams said in a campaign ad.

Williams challenged Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in 2018, putting forth a strong showing but losing by seven percentage points while spending far less money. He had planned to challenge former Governor Andrew Cuomo in this year’s election, but Cuomo resigned in August of last year and was replaced by Hochul.

“We did the right thing to get rid of Governor Cuomo but the Hochul administration is moving us in a worse direction,” Williams said at a May campaign rally. “New Yorkers feel it.”

This year, Williams again has endorsements from many progressive elected officials and groups, including New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, the Working Families Party, Make the Road New York Action, and the Sunrise Movement NYC, among others. He is running with lieutenant governor candidate Ana Maria Archila, a long time advocate and activist who has founded and run two nonprofits focused on immigrant rights and economic equality. Notably, several influential progressives, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have endorsed Archila but not Williams. 

Williams regularly highlights the three pillars of his current campaign: public safety, housing, and the economy, including during two debates against Hochul and Suozzi, and one debate with Suozzi that Hochul declined to attend, as well as interviews about his campaign.

That campaign has struggled to raise money to come anywhere close to keeping up with Hochul’s massive war chest and polls show the current governor in strong position to win the nomination as she seeks her first full term in the position. But Williams says he regularly outperforms polling and his message is being well-received around the state.

Public Safety
Williams’ vision for New York includes a ten-point public safety plan to invest in violence prevention and victim services, create trauma response teams, and strengthen the state’s mental health programs. 

“Public safety is a huge issue for me…The way we truly get to public safety is dealing with some of the structural issues that existed for quite some time,” Williams said in a November 2021 interview with Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max, just ahead of announcing his run for governor. “If you spend more money, resources and attention on dealing with the thing after it happens, you have already missed an important point, and you probably have failed.”

Having served as Co-Chair of the City Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, Williams plans to improve housing and job infrastructure in areas with high gun violence and combat the proliferation of guns by demanding financial accountability for gun manufacturers and lobbyists. 

“Every illegal gun is legal at some point,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “You combine that with access low to mental health, increase in homelessness, increase in food insecurity and a whole bunch of other issues…We have been trying to attack those things all at once. Trying to get more than just police services.”

Williams called for the state to put $1 billion of its $220 billion budget toward community anti-violence measures, and throughout the final months of the campaign has criticized Hochul for coming up far short of that number. While he does not use the “defund the police” slogan and has said it is the wrong messaging (he prefers a more positive vision but has said it’s wrong for elected officials to try to tell activists what slogans to use), he does want to move resources away from policing and incarceration and into preventative measures. That includes ensuring housing, jobs, and health care for everyone, as well as more investment in the violence interrupter programs he has supported for many years, beginning in Brooklyn.

Williams would also invest in care for drug users by ending the criminalization of low level drug offenses and providing harm reduction services and medication-assisted treatment; he supports a statewide expansion of New York City’s first two safe injection sites.

As governor, Williams says he would defend bail reforms (he has opposed the rollbacks to 2019 bail reforms of the past two years) and institute parole reforms to allow more people to be released from prison after serving long sentences. He promises to fight against mass incarceration by emphasizing rehabilitation and well-being in correctional facilities and expanding alternative detention programs that aim to deliver more targeted services to address people’s specific needs.

He would reform New York’s police department, mobilizing social workers and other trained professionals to respond instead of the police in certain circumstances, including situations involving homelessness and mental health.

“We make sure all the tools are there so that we can pull back the tool of law enforcement and still be able to put the type of safety in place that we know we can,” he said in the November Max Politics interview

Housing
Along with police reform and public safety, Williams’ other main focus of his professional career has been housing. He was executive director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors before being elected to the City Council and then he chaired the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. He is now offering a “Housing for All” plan as he runs for governor.

Williams pledges to create 1 million carbon-neutral affordable housing units along with good paying jobs that would come from the construction.

By reimagining the way the Empire State Development and New York State Urban Development Corporation operate, Williams would ensure that they partner with non-profits instead of large real estate developers, securing affordable housing for the long-term by better leveraging state subsidies, he says. Williams’ “housing for the social good” model demands that public land be used for public benefit, and prevents its sale to private for-profit corporations. 

More affordable housing would be made available across the state, Williams promises, in urban, suburban, and rural communities, and provided to New Yorkers from various income levels, with tenants paying according to their ability to do so, and those with more means helping to subsidize those with fewer.

Williams would offer foreclosure relief and prioritize expanding tenants’ rights by empowering them to form unions and providing the universal right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. He aims to implement statewide revolving loan funds for first-time home-buyers and expand cooperative housing models.

Williams also promises property tax reform, cutting property taxes for the working and middle class and increasing them on the wealthy.

Jobs and The Economy
Williams is campaigning on creating a “working people’s economy” by implementing a more progressive income tax, including raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

If elected, Williams would move to protect workers’ right to organize, increase the minimum wage, and fund “excluded workers,” mostly undocumented New Yorkers ineligible for federal unemployment relief and other benefits. He would support small businesses by offering tax breaks, rebates, and other incentives, he says.

Williams would pursue better pay for home care workers, and close the “minimum wage loophole” for tipped workers. He would also expand the earned income tax credit and create a public banking system.

Health Care
Williams has long been a proponent of the New York Health Act, which would institute single-payer health care in the state, effectively moving away from the private insurance-based model and to a government-run system.

Williams’ “healthcare for all” plan includes universal health care for all New Yorkers, for building and funding public hospitals, and improving the state’s elderly services and mental health infrastructure. Williams’ healthcare plan would include immigrant New Yorkers who are denied coverage based on their immigration status and invest in research and initiatives to support Black maternal health.

Williams has come under fire for inconsistent views on abortion. He has said in the past that while he would not personally want a partner to choose abortion, he still supports women’s right to choose, and his comments on the subject have evolved over the past decade.

“You have to check off a box of pro-choice and you have to check off a box of pro-life and I don’t know that I’m comfortable in any of those boxes. I am personally not in favor of abortion,” he told Politico in 2013

Since then, Williams has put forth increasingly stronger pro-choice stances, including reproductive rights in his healthcare plan and supporting the effort to make abortion a consitutional right in New York State. He has said in this campaign that in the past he mistakenly put his own view at the forefront of his public position even as he always supported pro-choice laws and that he realized he needed to remove himself from the equation.

We cannot wait, cannot hesitate, before fighting to preserve this right, New York will continue to fight to be a safe haven for women and pregnant people,” Williams wrote on Instagram in a May 2 post responding to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which came to pass this past week.

Education
Williams’ skeletal education plan would make college more accessible by offering free tuition at CUNY and SUNY colleges and pledges to ensure full funding of public schools at all levels. He would also expand summer youth job programs and invest in counseling and support to end the school to prison pipeline.

Williams pledges to implement a universal childcare system and transform New York’s schools into environmentally friendly havens.

Climate and the Environment
Williams’ environmental plans go beyond school buildings. As governor, he says he would fully implement the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a 2019 law that requires a major shift in the state toward renewable energy and away from carbon emissions, while also protecting marginalized communities.

To do this, Williams supports the Build Public Renewables Act that has not passed the Legislature but aims to allow more public investment in renewable energy, independent from corporate interests. He says he would invest $10 billion yearly in climate action projects, promoting the creation of good union jobs.

Immigrant Communities
Williams would fight to make the state more inclusive for immigrants and their families, he says, and that is a key focus for his running-mate, Archila, herself an immigrant from Colombia and a founder of immigrant rights group Make the Road New York.

A Williams-Archila administration would ensure that all New Yorkers have health insurance coverage regardless of immigration status, the campaign website says. Local law enforcement and state agencies would be prevented from coordinating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and ICE would be prohibited from contracting with New York state and local jails.

Government and Voting Reform
Williams would institute a wide range of government and election reforms, including investing more in boards of elections so they can better run elections and funding the public financing of elections to remove more of the influence of private donors in elections. He would ban contributions from corporations for state campaigns, prevent elected officials from trading stocks, and prohibit corporate lobbying by former officials. He would create an independent ethics commission and give the attorney general resources to investigate public corruption.

People have a lot of real reasons not to have faith in government,” Williams told The New York Times. “I do believe electing different types of people who will make decisions that are really based on what’s best for New Yorkers will be a huge difference.”

***
Lindsay Shachnow, Gotham Gazette

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Lee Wins Competitive Democratic Primary for Lower Manhattan Assembly Seat Being Vacated by Niou


(l-r) Illapa Sairitupac, Grace Lee, and Denny Salas


UPDATE: Grace Lee won the Democratic primary for Assembly District 65. Read the full story for background on the race, her priorities, and more:

There’s a wide open and highly-competitive Democratic primary heading for the finish line in Lower Manhattan’s 65th State Assembly District.

It is among many Assembly primary elections where voting is set to conclude Tuesday, along with the statewide party primaries for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as some down ballot races. Another set of primaries will unfold in August.

Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, a progressive rising star, is leaving the 65th Assembly District seat to run for Congress in the new 10th Congressional District, part of a crowded primary that will be decided in August, along with other U.S. House and State Senate party primary elections.

Running to replace Niou in the heavily-Democratic Assembly district are social worker Illapa Sairitupac, charter school development officer Denny Salas, and small business owner Grace Lee, who unsuccessfully challenged Niou for the seat in 2020. All three candidates have been involved in local community organizing in different ways.

The new 65th district, somewhat redrawn in the redistricting process, includes Chinatown, Two Bridges, the Lower East Side, South Battery Park City, and part of the Financial District. The total population of more than 139,000 residents, based on 2020 Census data, is 33.5% white, 36.8% Asian, 19.1% Hispanic, and 6.6% Black, according to Redistricting & You: New York from the CUNY Mapping Service. Residents of the district voted heavily Democratic during the 2020 presidential election, with 83.3% casting their ballot for now-President Joe Biden and 16.7% voting for then-President Donald Trump.

Niou was the first Asian-American to represent the district that is home to Chinatown and she won the seat over a short-term incumbent with establishment support who had replaced the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Backed by the Working Families Party and several progressive elected officials and clubs, Niou was victorious in 2016 and has been a leading progressive voice in the State Legislature since.

In the race to replace her, Lee has been endorsed by a long list of officials and groups, including Rep. Jerry Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Citizens Union, and several labor unions, among others; while Sairitupac is backed by the Democratic Socialists of America-New York City, the Working Families Party, and a slew of progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Lieutenant Governor candidate Ana María Archila; and Salas, has the backing of several law enforcement unions, among others.

Gotham Gazette spoke with the three candidates about their vision and priorities for the 65th Assembly District.

Denny Salas
Salas, currently a development officer at the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning, told Gotham Gazette that his campaign heavily incorporates the immediate concerns of residents of the district. Before launching his platform, Salas said he solicited feedback from the community, who ranked their top priorities, in order, as public safety, education, the economy, the environment, housing, and health.

“When you have this majority-minority district and you walk around, what you see is that their needs haven’t been addressed,” said Salas, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year. “There was this yearning for an elected official that was actually listening to them and trying to represent them.”

To address public safety, Salas wants to amend the state’s bail law to ensure perpetrators face consequences, pointing to how an individual has been able to access immediate release even if they are accused of possessing an illegal weapon or committing a hate crime. He hopes to add an Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Jewish, and LGBTQ Hate Crimes Task Force in every police department across the state, as well as restrict the number of jails and homeless shelters in working class neighborhoods, increase funding for community-based organizations and violence interrupters, and provide more health services to individuals experiencing mental illnesses, among other policies.

“We're looking at it, we live it — we’re living it every day here and it’s unfortunate, and it shouldn’t happen,” Salas said about increases in crime over the past two-plus years.

Since the start of his campaign, he has received a string of endorsements from law enforcement unions, including the Captains Endowment Association, the Detectives Endowment Association, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association. 

On education, Salas said he wants to expand the number of citywide high-performing schools, specialized high schools, gifted and talented programs, and afterschool programs. He argued that increasing partnerships between high- and low-performing schools can improve student test scores and create new student programs, as he said he’s seen working at the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning.

Salas’ platform on the economy includes supporting small businesses by creating a statewide Paycheck Protection Program and subsidizing wages, advocating for higher wages for workers, expanding export grants and increasing grants for minority- and women-owned businesses and other marginalized groups.

Salas also said he would put more funds into resiliency projects in Lower Manhattan and carbon-free energy, and develop disaster-proof communication services for first responders.

When it comes to housing, Salas said that he wants to better fund the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), create a new Mitchell-Lama program for more affordable homeownership, and support a rise in community land trusts and tax credits. On health, he hopes to have a public healthcare option for all residents, advocate for reproductive rights, and push the enactment of congestion pricing.

“I have taken the time and done the work to speak to every part of the community,” Salas said. “And it's not me telling them what I want them to do or what I want to do for them. It's me asking, ‘Are you okay? What are your main concerns? And how can I help and approach it from the lens of listening and not telling them anything?’”

Salas said he is “actually representative” of the neighborhoods of the 65th Assembly district.

He calls himself the “product of the American Dream” given his youth growing up poor with his parents, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and move into the middle class thanks to education and other opportunities.

Salas started his career as a stockbroker before quitting his job to join then-President Barack Obama’s political organization, Organizing for America. He then worked on Capitol Hill under a congress member from Massachusetts, the state where he grew up, and later became a political consultant and a lobbyist for small business boat manufacturing.

Alongside the law enforcement endorsements, Salas has received support from Justin Yu, the former president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, and Alan Gerson, a former District 1 City Council member, as well as other groups and unions including the United Democratic Organization, Asian Wave Alliance, StudentsFirstNY, Great Public Schools, Steamfitters Local 638, Sheet Metal Workers Local 28 and more.

Illapa Sairitupac
Illapa Sairitupac, a democratic socialist who has lived in Lower Manhattan for nearly a decade, is running to represent the 65th district as an advocate for the working class. The top priorities of his campaign include climate, housing, healthcare, and workers’ rights, as well as public safety, immigration, transit, education, feminism, and LGBTQ protections.

“I know how it is to advocate for working class folks who are marginalized, who are forgotten about, and that translates pretty beautifully into being a candidate and listening to them on the streets, listening to them in their homes, listening to their worries, their pains and their concerns, and being a champion for them,” Sairitupac told Gotham Gazette.

As a mental health social worker and climate organizer, Sairitupac said he will use his experience to fight for free healthcare for all and a Green New Deal. If elected to office, he will champion the New York Health Act, which would create a state single-payer health care system, and the Build Public Renewables Act, which allow the state’s power authority to produce far more renewable energy for use in New York as it seeks to move away from fossil fuels.

Sairitupac added that he wants to fully fund hospitals, expand access to healthcare, and end medical debt. He would support Good Cause Eviction to protect tenants and reduce mass evictions, push for all forms of public transportation to be fare-free, and call for energy utilities, such as Con Edison, to be publicly-owned.

On public safety, Sairitupac supports funding community-based violence prevention programs, which would connect community members with young individuals who are at risk of perpetrating violence or being victims. He wants to pass Daniel’s Law, in which trained mental health professionals would respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies instead of police officers, and expand mental health walk-in clinics in the district. 

Sairitupac is opposed to the building of a new jail in Chinatown, part of the city’s plan to replace the Rikers Island jail complex by 2027, or any new jail, and said he will fight to reduce mass incarceration. He said he would work to decriminalize low-level drug possession and expunge past misdemeanor drug convictions, among other policies.

When asked why he is the best fit to represent the 65th Assembly district, Sairitupac said it is important for a person like himself, the son of working class immigrants from Peru, to represent working class communities. As a queer person, he pointed to the history of queer liberation movements in Lower Manhattan and their importance in fighting for LGBTQ rights.

“I believe that we need change to come from the ground up,” Sairitupac said. “I don’t see myself being a legislator in his ivory tower. I want to be on the streets as I have been already, talking to folks, being accessible to them and listening to them.”

Sairitupac, who is backed by the Democratic Socialists of America-New York City, is the first candidate to be endorsed by the organization in Manhattan, as the local DSA has been focused largely on races in Brooklyn and Queens over recent election cycles. DSA has picked up key victories in state legislative races since 2018, including two Brooklyn State Senate seats and a handful of Assembly seats in Brooklyn and Queens. But the group came up short during last year’s City Council primaries, when two of its six endorsed candidates won -- one in Queens and one in Brooklyn.

“I’m running on a slate of other leftists in different parts of the city, and if a bunch of us win, we’ll have more power combined with the other leftists, socialists who are already in office,” Sairitupac said. “We can create a voting bloc inside the Assembly and organize our other Assembly colleagues to move on bills that we know are common sense, so we can invest in the communities and we can fight for resources to be distributed equitably to our communities.”

He also secured the endorsements of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon; and democratic socialists elected to the State Legislature and City Council: State Senators Jabari Brisport and Julia Salazar; Assembly Members Zohran Mamdani, Emily Gallagher, Marcela Mitaynes, and Phara Souffrant Forrest; and City Council Members Tiffany Cabán and Alexa Avilés.

Alongside DSA, Sairitupac has received support from the New York Working Families Party, Tenants PAC, New York Communities for Change, and Green New York, among others.

Grace Lee
Lee — a small business owner and first-generation Asian-American — said she is running for the Assembly as the only candidate who has been actively involved in community organizing in the district. She said she will bring her experience of coalition building among elected officials, city and state agencies, and local leaders to Albany.

“As a community organizer, I've seen how the government has failed many people,” Lee told Gotham Gazette. “I believe the district needs and deserves a representative who is on the ground, knows the issues intimately in this community, and can amplify the voices of the community to help deliver results.”

Lee previously ran for the 65th Assembly district in 2020 against Niou, who won by a wide margin. If victorious this time, Lee said her top priorities would be public safety, affordable housing, and education, followed by climate, fair taxes, health care, immigration, jobs, transportation, women’s rights, LGBTQ protections, and more. 

She said public safety is her number one concern, and she believes the path to having a safer community is better coordination among the NYPD, city and state agencies, and community advocates. Lee supports increasing foot patrol officers to have more of a physical NYPD presence in the district, and she also wants to see community policing in the communities of the 65th Assembly district.

“As a mother of three young girls and as an Asian-American woman, I know what it feels like to feel unsafe, especially these days,” she said.

Lee said that the two leading drivers of crime are poverty and the lack of economic opportunities, and she believes it is necessary to invest in services that lift residents out of poverty, address racial inequity, and provide mental health care and housing. She added that law enforcement and prosecutors need to be held accountable, and lamented that many victims of anti-Asian hate crimes are not taken seriously.

On housing, Lee said she would pass Good Cause Eviction and supports preserving existing affordable housing by increasing funding for NYCHA and Knickerbocker Village in Two Bridges. She also said she would fight to expand down-payment assistance for first-time home-buyers.

Lee said that all students deserve a fully-funded education, and she supports investing in universal childcare and the New Deal for CUNY, which would add more funding to CUNY and make it tuition-free again for in-state students. She said it is important to close the learning gaps caused by the pandemic.

Through her community activism, Lee said she has achieved a number of accomplishments in Lower Manhattan, where she has lived for the past 15 years. She pointed to her work with Children First, a parent-led coalition she co-founded that is fighting a developer who is trying to build housing in the South Street Seaport on a site that may contain mercury in the ground from a past thermometer factory and is located across from two elementary schools. 

She also said she has delivered meals to NYCHA residents throughout the pandemic, helped neglected deaf residents form a tenants’ association in their building on Forsyth Street, and was arrested for protesting the construction of the Chinatown jail last month. “I've put my body on the line to protect this community,” she said.

Lee has received a host of endorsements from elected officials, district leaders, and community activists since the start of her campaign, including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, State Senator John Liu, Reps. Jerry Nadler, Grace Meng, and Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council Member Christopher Marte, who represents the 1st Council district that overlaps significantly with the 65th Assembly district. 

She has also garnered support from a number of Democratic clubs, political and civic organizations, Chinese family associations, and labor unions, such as DC37, the New York State United Teachers, the New York State Nurses Association, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, the Stonewall Democrats, and Citizens Union, among others.

Lee said only a few districts in New York State have a large Asian population, which includes the 65th district, and she hopes to be a voice for the Asian-American community in the Assembly.

“The Asian community is going through a lot and they deserve voices in government,” she said. “It would be an honor to be one of the very few Asian-Americans elected.”

***
Rachel Cohen, Gotham Gazette

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What is Kathy Hochul's Gubernatorial Campaign Platform?


Gov. Hochul (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


Governor Kathy Hochul is running in this year’s election, including this month’s Democratic primary, to win a first full term in the job she ascended to in August of last year. Hochul is seeking more time to fulfill promises she has made throughout her many months in office thus far and as she asks New Yorkers for their votes.

Since she took office last August after the resignation of disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state's first female governor has staked her early tenure on transforming the culture of Albany politics and shepherding New Yorkers through the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The people of this state want us to look forward and not backward. That's what my leadership is bringing to the people, to the state of New York, as their governor," Hochul said in the last of two Democratic primary debates attended by all three candidates on June 17. In the primary, Hochul is facing Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Hochul came into the race with significant advantages as the current office-holder with immense governmental and political powers, strong name recognition, and a massive fundraising advantage — Hochul has out-raised her nearest opponent four-fold and also has a strong lead in polls). If not for those, her fate as a candidate would more likely hinge on how well she has fulfilled her commitments so far and the vision she is setting for the coming months and years.

Hochul’s campaign platform, unsurprisingly, reflects the political agenda she has outlined as governor. It draws largely on goals set in her Day One address, January State of the State agenda, and executive budget, making it more extensive than the published platforms of her Democratic opponents. But Hochul has made few commitments or proposals on the campaign trail that she hasn't already made as governor, and she has not set out a four-year vision.

In stump speeches and official pronouncements the Buffalo native frequently rattles off a litany of accomplishments and works in progress. That list includes actions on healthcare, economic development, gun violence, education and childcare, government ethics, and more – many of them taken during the April state budget or the packed end of the legislative session that concluded early this month. As gun violence and abortion rights have dominated recent headlines, Hochul has discussed the package of gun control bills and reproductive health protections she signed at the close of the legislative session, while promising additional actions in light of Supreme Court rulings that just came down.

“We got so much done that had been hampered and unfulfilled for a decade,” Hochul said in her first primary debate appearance on June 7 of the gun control measures. "I've been the governor for nine months. I got it done in record time."

Hochul regularly touts large, long-term initiatives passed in the budget like a $25 billion, five-year affordable housing plan or a $10 billion healthcare workforce development project.

"You look at the short-term, the mid-term, and the long-term, and we are working hard every single day to try and solve this problem quickly," she said of the dearth of affordable housing around the state, during the June 7 debate. She also cited the recent enactment of legislation to foster hotel-to-housing conversions but would not comment on the failure of Good Cause Eviction legislation days earlier.

Despite spending $13.1 million over the last six months and having more than $18 million on hand, Hochul’s campaign does not appear to have made the effort to update its website since the end of the legislative session on June 4, where it boasts a number of legislative goals that never came to pass and calls for the passage of items that did indeed make it to the finish line.

For example, as of June 23 it said Hochul is "enacting two term limits for Statewide elected officials, banning outside income for Statewide elected officials, and replacing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with a truly independent ethics watchdog that answers to New Yorkers, not to politicians." The first two were not completed this year and, while Hochul and the Legislature established a new body to replace JCOPE, its members will continue to be nominated by Hochul and legislative leaders.

"The progress Governor Hochul has made during her first ten months in office is just the beginning," wrote Jen Goodman, a spokesperson for Hochul's campaign, in an email. "New Yorkers need a governor who is laser focused on delivering on the issues that matter most from gun safety to abortion rights to affordability and that’s why Governor Hochul is running for a full term."

Hochul came into office on the heels of scandal teeming around Cuomo and promised "a new era of transparency." A video featured prominently on Hochul's campaign website lists a number of steps the governor made in her first few months in office, including a commitment to government accountability. It ends with the slogan, "New governor. New day," attributed to an Albany Times Union editorial from her first day in office.

Hochul won praise from corruption watchdogs for transparency efforts early in her administration, like directing state agencies to expedite the Freedom of Information process. But she has been dogged by ethical questions, including the indictment and resignation of her first lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, on federal corruption charges. Questions also swirl around Hochul’s secretive and generous negotiations over the construction of a new Buffalo Bills stadium with $850 million in tax dollars. The deal also raised questions about Hochul’s lack of recusal given her husband is a senior executive of a major stadium concessions company that has the contract at the Bills’ current stadium.

Hochul addressed both topics at the June 7 debate, saying of Benjamin: “I promised the voters of New York and the people of the state that I would do everything I can to restore their faith in government and that was a setback.” She has said she undertook a stronger process with and is proud of her new lieutenant governor and running-mate, Antonio Delgado.

On the Bills stadium, Hochul has said there is no conflict of interest between her family and the stadium deal because she and her husband comport to high personal ethical standards. “I worked hard to structure the best deal I could to the benefit of the taxpayers,” Hochul said at the debate. She did not comment on whether her husband's company, Delaware North, should be barred from seeking a concessions contract in the new stadium.

In her short time in office, Hochul has been confronted with myriad challenges – from Hurricane Ida to the mass shooting in Buffalo, to the ongoing pandemic, housing affordability, inflation, the humanitarian crisis in prisons and jails, and a succession of U.S. Supreme Court rulings – to name only some. She has taken budgetary and legislative action on a number of fronts, including via the $220 billion state budget she negotiated and passed (though it was more than a week late).

With her administration assembled and her first legislative session as governor behind her, Hochul now wants four years to execute her vision, though she has provided few details as to what her plans are beyond what she has already put in motion or pledged to do earlier in her tenure but didn’t yet accomplish.

"I have put together a leadership team that is second to none, and it's mostly driven by women because they see the world very differently in a way that has not been part of a leadership team of the state in its history," she said at the June 7 debate.

Economy and Jobs
Hochul's economic recovery plan is focused on affordability for taxpayers, support for small businesses, and investments in growing industries like healthcare, life-sciences, and renewable energy.

She frequently talks about accelerating $1.2 billion in tax cuts to the middle class that were passed in previous years and enacting a temporary gas tax holiday this year. Hochul's website says the state is providing $100 million in relief to 200,000 small businesses and $1 billion in property tax rebates for 2 million households (checks from the state that prominently feature Hochul's name began to arrive in mailboxes this week, just ahead of primary day and amid early and absentee voting). It also touts a $75 million investment in childcare worker wages.

Asked at the June 17 debate whether she would include new state money for the Excluded Workers Fund in next year’s budget, Hochul claimed it was no longer necessary. "Excluded worker program was designed intentionally to be immediate relief for people suffering from the effects of the pandemic when their jobs were lost," she said of the roughly $2 billion program largely for undocumented New Yorkers locked out of massive federal pandemic aid. "People who worked in hotels or hospitality or in the entertainment fields, the jobs are coming back. So the temporary relief granted at the time is not needed [again]."

Earlier this year, Hochul pushed through generous subsidy packages for a number of industries. That included the Buffalo Bills stadium deal, a $1.3 billion, three-year film and TV tax credit extension, and a $10 billion tax break over 20 years for manufacturers of semiconductors used in microchips. Critics have decried the spending as giveaways to profitable corporations with few proven public benefits. Hochul has maintained the subsidies will create jobs and help spur regional economies throughout the state, while ensuring that industry and jobs stay in New York.

Hochul is proposing or implementing a number of infrastructure projects likewise intended to create jobs, stimulate the economy, and meet regional needs. Many of them will require years and billions of dollars to complete, as well as buy-in from numerous entities and the public.

She wants to build a new mass transit line connecting Brooklyn and Queens, using existing unused rails for one of three types of new transit. The volume of commuters between those two boroughs has surpassed travelers entering Manhattan from them, MTA Chair Janno Lieber, who supports the idea, told Gotham Gazette's Ben Max in a recent interview.

Hochul secured $1 billion to expand high speed internet in underserved areas and has discussed undoing the damage of past urban designs that blighted Black, Latino, and immigrant neighborhoods in the mid-twentieth century. Her website reads: "She is also focused on reconnecting neighborhoods across New York that were severed by asphalt highways, disproportionately impacting communities of color."

Hochul has also offered ideas for or promised to advance major transit projects, while pledging better management of the MTA. She re-nominated Janno Lieber as Chair and CEO of the MTA and has both taken clear state ownership for the mass transit systems it runs while providing support and limiting interference. She has put forth the Interborough Express for a new transit line (rail or rapid bus, TBD) connecting parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and she's slightly altered and pushed ahead a plan to redevelopment Penn Station and the surrounding area, while also moving ahead on other mega-projects that are much further along like the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, Gateway, Bronx MetroNorth expansion, and congestion pricing for Manhattan.

Health Care
The center of Hochul's health-care plan is a $10 billion, five-year investment in health-care workforce development, to expand the labor market by 20%. The proposal includes $4 billion for wages and bonuses and incentives for recruiting workers from out of state. It also includes funding to make it easier to get a nursing degree.

The state budget included a 5.4% cost of living adjustment for human services workers, which won praise from labor groups and providers. The budget also included a higher minimum wage for home care workers.

Hochul was a strong supporter of continuing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health-care workers as well as masks in school, for a time.

"It's all about being ready, treating it like a military operation, and that's what I've already had to do during the time I've been governor," Hochul said at the June 17 debate of the ongoing pandemic recovery. She has said similar things with regard to preparing for additional covid surges or the next major disease outbreak.

After pressure from public health experts and legislators, and reporting from Gotham Gazette, Hochul announced her administration was launching a full after-action review of state government's response to the pandemic. The governor has said that the review will inform preparedness for the future.

Hochul has touted her support, as a member of Congress, for the Affordable Care Act and wants to reduce prescription drug prices. She has not publicly supported the controversial New York Health Act, which would create a statewide single-payer health-care system.

Guns and Public Safety
Hochul has signed several pieces of gun control legislation since taking office. Most recently she enacted a package of ten laws advanced in response to mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and elsewhere that would raise the legal age to buy an assault rifle, strengthen the state's Red Flag law, and make it easier for police to forensically trace bullets, among other things.

This past week Hochul vowed to call a special legislative session to pass additional gun control bills after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York's concealed carry law, and did so on Friday evening for June 30.

Much of what Hochul implicitly and explicitly promises to do if elected for a full term is to implement the programs and laws she’s passed in her short but productive time as governor, including better implementation of the Red Flag law, other measures passed or about to pass on gun control, violence interruption, and community interventions.

That also includes partnerships with other governors and New York City Mayor Eric Adams on a number of public safety initiatives, including on an interstate gun trafficking task force and Adams’ "Subway Safety Plan," which includes a greater police and social service-provider presence underground.

As part of the state's partnership with New York City on "subway safety," Hochul rolled out so-called Safe Option Support teams, which pair social service workers with the NYPD to push unsheltered people to seek city services. Those teams, in part funded by the state, will be in action as soon as the state bids out the contracts, Hochul said.

Her "Jails-to-Jobs" proposal focuses on education behind bars and re-entry employment. The proposal includes reorienting parole officers on career planning and coordinating DOCCS and the Department of Labor on workforce development reentry services. In the state budget, Hochul and the Legislature removed a ban on Tuition Assistance Program funding for incarcerated people.

In her State of the State agenda this year, Hochul also said she would propose legislation to expand so-called educational release, and a state constitutional amendment to allow "public-private partnerships that would enable hybrid work-release programs within prisons" that are "voluntary" and "would pay good wages." These were included in the Executive Budget but didn't make it into the enacted budget, according to administration spokesperson Shams Tarek, making for the possibility of another attempt next year depending on the election results.

Hochul also proposed to create some transitional housing for formerly incarcerated individuals and eliminate parole supervision fees, both of which did make it into the final budget.

"For far too long, formerly incarcerated New Yorkers have been forced to deal with the lifelong consequences of criminal convictions that deny them a second chance to reclaim their role as an equal member of society," her website said. Despite these sentiments and a State of the State commitment to "push to pass" the Clean Slate Act this legislative session, the governor and state lawmakers failed to advance the legislation that would allow for criminal records sealing of most offenses after time served and an additional waiting period without re-offense.

Hochul was a strong proponent of revising recent changes to the state's bail and discovery laws and age limits on criminal responsibility. Many of her proposed changes passed, including expanding the list of bail-eligible offenses. Hochul also successfully pushed for the expansion of Kendra's Law, which allows for court-ordered treatment for mental illness. Lawmakers did not give judges more full discretion to consider a defendant's "dangerousness" when setting bail, a measure supported by Hochul and others and rejected by many Democratic lawmakers and criminal justice advocates, but in passing some of Hochul’s proposals took steps in that direction given that judges can now incorporate defendants’ past arrest records and other factors.

Reproduction Rights
Hochul has been a proponent of strong reproductive rights in New York, and became even more vocal since the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, a forecast that then came to fruition on Friday.

At the end of the legislative session earlier this month, the state passed a number of protections for abortion seekers and providers, but fell short of passing an Equal Rights Amendment that would enshrine the right to abortion in the State Constitution – something Hochul called for "this session" in her State of the State agenda back in January.

She also directed state agencies to change regulations to allow for abortions using medication to be conducted via telehealth and announced a state fund to pay for abortion services for those who cannot afford them, though she has said she does not support using state funds to help provide transportation and housing costs for those coming from out of state for abortions in New York.

Hochul has called for the creation of a "Patient Bill of Rights" that would include information on abortion rights. In September, Hochul asked Facebook to post information on abortion and block misinformation. Outside of the letter, Hochul does not appear to have exerted significant pressure on the tech giant in public.

Housing
Hochul's housing platform revolves around a $25 billion spending plan to create or preserve 100,000 affordable units over five years. That would include 10,000 units of supportive housing, which are designed to accommodate a range of needs of vulnerable populations and typically come with social services. Other details of the plan are fairly limited, but much of the money appears to go toward housing subsidies for new affordable housing or to extend the terms of existing affordable housing.

She regularly touts relief for renters and extending the pandemic-era eviction moratorium last year (she then let it expire in January). The state budget passed in April included $800 million more for the Emergency Rental Assistance Programs, $250 million to go toward "pandemic-related" utility debt for low-income households, and $125 million for the Landlord Rental Assistance Program.

Hochul has vowed to try again after failing to pass proposals that would lead to more (affordable) housing in the suburbs of New York City, which build very little new housing.

Asked whether she would have signed Good Cause Eviction legislation -- which would set major limitations on both evictions and rent increases on the private rental market, and died in the Legislature to the chagrin of housing rights advocates -- Hochul told debate moderators on June 17: "I am focused on what the Legislature gives to us then I'll analyze it," adding of the rent relief programs, "as I said, let's keep focusing on getting the money out the door as quickly as we can."

Environment
Hochul has set a number of clean energy goals, and, if elected to a full term, will be charged with implementing both her own promises and the mandates of the state’s major climate law, the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. As governor, Hochul has set out elements of a vision to reach the clean energy mandates of the CLCPA.

Her State of the State set goals to invest in wind, solar, and hydro-electric power, double the state's energy storage by 2030, create net zero emissions in state investment portfolios by 2040, electrify the state fleet and school buses by 2035, and phase out fossil-fuel plants in New York City, among many others.

In the state budget this year, lawmakers approved a Hochul-backed $1.3 billion increase to the Clean Water, Clean Air, and the $4.2 billion Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which will go before voters in a ballot referendum this November. Hochul has made a series of clean energy project announcements since becoming governor and has major projects to see to fruition if she is elected to a full term, including two transmission lines from Canada and upstate New York that will bring renewable energy to New York City.

Hochul failed to find agreement with the Legislature on an environment-focused proposal to eliminate gas hook-ups in new building construction, which could make for a marquee plank if she is given a full term and returns to offer an agenda in January 2023.

Hochul has refused to comment on whether she will sign a two-year moratorium on new fossil-fuel crypto-mining until after the election. Opponents have called attention to the thousands of dollars in campaign donations Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado have received from Super PACs backed by crypto-currency executives who opposed moratoria on mining.

Education
Hochul secured increases in School Aid in the budget this year, totaling $31.5 billion, including $1.5 billion in Foundation Aid increases, and hundreds of millions on pre-K and other programs. Hochul declined to seek any changes to school aid formulas despite critiques from some that the state sends too much money to wealthier districts and from others that the state should send more to those districts if they agree to reduce the property taxes that lead to the influx of local school funding that the former group of critiques says makes so much state aid unnecessary.

The budget also included over half a billion dollars in operations funding for SUNY and CUNY and another $2.2 billion for capital projects at the public university systems.

Hochul's campaign touts efforts to expanding early access to childhood education and plans for $2.1 billion in additional School Aid to go to public schools to hire more teachers, bus drivers, and support staff.

Hochul sought a four-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools but the Legislature only agreed to two years, in part because Mayor Eric Adams did not make a satisfactory case to legislators around his vision for the school system. Hochul is expected to sign that bill soon, while she has been non-committal about signing a companion bill that will mandate smaller class sizes in city schools.

Hochul completely avoided the charged issue of charter schools, even as the state's cap on charter schools in New York City has been hit.

Transparency and Government Ethics
When she came into office, Hochul promised a government-wide review of information sharing policies and the establishment of strong ethical guardrails. Shortly after, she directed state agency heads to report on their open government policies and ways to improve transparency, including speeding up the FOIL process. Good-government groups applauded that move, as well as her decision to publish a conflict of interest and recusal policy for matters involving the work of her husband. Then-Lt. Gov. Benjamin and Hochul's top aide, Secretary to the Governor Karen Persichilli Keogh, whose husband is a lobbyist at an influential firm, also signed recusal policies. All three are non-binding and self-enforced.

Hochul also promised to require ethics training for state employees following the cascade of sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo.

This legislative session, Hochul and the Legislature negotiated the replacement of JCOPE, the state's troubled ethics body. The new entity, like JCOPE, will be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders with a significant additional layer of input from the state's law school deans and other changes to improve its independence and teeth.

While promising a more collaborative and open relationship with the Legislature, Hochul upset a number of lawmakers for introducing and forcing through major spending and policy changes in the final stages of budget negotiations. Good-government groups called the budget process one of the most secretive in recent memory.

Hochul proposes instituting term limits on statewide elected officials but it did not pass.

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max Politics Podcast: Harry Wilson's Closing Argument in the Republican Primary for Governor


Harry Wilson (photo: @harrywilson)


June 24, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Harry Wilson's Closing Argument in the Republican Primary for Governor

Harry Wilson, a businessman running for the Republican nomination for New York Governor in this year's election, joined the show to discuss his campaign, the state of the race, and his closing argument for GOP primary voters. Wilson outlined some of his business experience, lessons from his 2010 run for Comptroller, how he's talking about electability on the campaign trail, what separates him from his opponents, and more.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter @TweetBenMax. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.

Read more: Max Politics Podcast: Harry Wilson's Closing Argument in the Republican Primary for Governor

Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debates Rife with Misinformation about 2020 Election, January 6 Insurrection, Covid, and More


Republican primary debate in race for NY Governor (photo: pool)


The four Republican candidates running for governor have faced off in three debates ahead of the June 28 primary, each attempting to set themselves apart from the others and from the Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, who they want to replace. But in their appeals to the party faithful, three of the candidates have indulged in misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies about the 2020 presidential election, the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection, the covid vaccine, criminal justice reforms in New York, Critical Race Theory, and more.

New York holds closed primaries so only Republicans are able to cast a vote for the gubernatorial nomination. The task currently at hand for the four candidates -- Rep. Lee Zeldin, Harry Wilson, Rob Astorino, and Andrew Giuliani -- is not necessarily to convince the broader electorate about their qualifications and vision, but dedicated Republicans about their adherence to party orthodoxy.

Wilson has been willing to break from the party line and is running as an independent “outsider,” but, much like the party’s standard bearer, former President Donald Trump, the other Republican candidates for New York governor have been playing it especially fast-and-loose with the facts as they make their campaign pitches to their base. 

“Candidates do what they think will get them elected,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government reform group. “As a group, the GOP candidates for NY governor think GOP voters do not care if they lie. What else is there to say?”

Three of the candidates – Zeldin, Giuliani and Astorino – have either distorted the truth or outright lied about things including the results of the 2020 presidential election was fairly decided, the effectiveness of the covid vaccine, the link between state bail reforms and increasing violent crime, and state abortion law. Wilson has skewed far closer to the truth, while treading softly on some of the more controversial issues in an apparent effort to not repel the Republican voter base.

Two of the candidates – Zeldin and Giuliani – have taken pains to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump, even as the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been holding public hearings concurrently with the New York primary and painstakingly showing the then-president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

They have also emulated him. For instance, Zeldin has given his opponents quippy monikers – “Never Trumper” Harry Wilson and “Rolex Rob” Astorino – just like the former president has been known to do with his rivals and critics. Giuliani has gone as far as publicly insisting that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, a denial of reality in the mode of his father’s work as Trump’s advisor and attorney. 

“Right now, the Republican Party is allowing the toxin of Donald Trump, and what he did and his lies, to continue to infect the party and not standing up against it.” said Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, on The Daily podcast hosted by the New York Times, amid the January 6 hearings. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was ousted from her Republican leadership position for challenging Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

While Wilson has largely avoided the same lies and misinformation spread by the other three, all four have severely exaggerated when discussing a focus issue of the campaign on both sides of the aisle: the impact of state bail reforms on the violent crime surge of the last two years. The Republican candidates have repeatedly claimed without evidence that bail reforms approved by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo have caused the gun violence spikes of 2020 and 2021.

While inaccurate, that notion has been promoted by Democrats as well, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams (a former Republican) and Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running in the Democratic primary for governor. When pressed on his claimed connections between bail reform and the increase in gun violence, Suozzi has backed away from calling it causal. 

“These are debates for the party faithful for both parties,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a good government group, about the primary debates on both sides of the aisle. 

“What’s really going to matter is how they defend their proposals going into the general, because there, the myths and lies don't usually hold up, because you're appealing to the vast majority of voters,” he added.

Here are some of the lies and mistruths that the Republican candidates have shared — none of the campaign responded to requests for comment for this story:

Trump's 'Big Lie'
Former President Trump’s ‘big lie’ that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him through widespread fraud has continued to hold purchase among the president’s most loyal supporters. Trump used that lie to whip up the crowd that eventually stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to prevent Joe Biden’s victory from being certified, while Trump and his team were taking steps behind the scenes to illegally overturn the results of the election. 

“The lie hasn’t gone away,” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, on the fourth day of the congressional hearings on the January 6 insurrection. “It is corrupting our democratic institutions. People who believe that lie are now seeking positions of public trust.” 

Among those people is Andrew Giuliani, who said at the second primary debate on June 20, “I believe that Donald Trump on November 3, 2020 was reelected.”  

Zeldin, who was among the Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying the election later the same day as the Capitol riot, has also cast doubt on whether the election was fairly decided, pointing to legal challenges in Pennsylvania, which was one of the most consequential states in the election. “It's something that we’ll never for sure know the exact consequence of in Pennsylvania, allowing one county to have different rules than another county or not allowing the close observation of the opening of ballots,” he said at the second debate. 

Astorino was less direct, but nonetheless said the 2020 election raised concerns about election integrity despite claims of voter fraud being repeatedly debunked, dozens of court cases being dismissed, and the Trump team failing to ever provide evidence of its claims. “Unfortunately, Joe Biden is our president because we're dealing with this right now,” Astorino said. “I'll tell you what was stolen from us. What was stolen from us was our belief in the election system right now.”

“The problem was every state, every Republican governor, every Republican legislature, every state, all 50 sent in their certified results. So there really wasn't anything that they could do other than accept those results,” Astorino lamented of the 2020 election results and the role of the Congress and Vice President Mike Pence. 

Wilson, alone among the Republican candidates for governor, said, “So I believe Joe Biden was duly elected president of the United States. I believe that we Republicans need to move on and focus on addressing the problems that really hurt working families today.”

Trump’s Role in January 6
The former president spent weeks urging his base to reject the election results that showed Biden had won the presidency and called on them to rally in Washington D.C. on January 6 under the banner of “Stop the Steal.” At a rally that day, before the electoral votes based on certified state results would be counted by Congress, the president addressed the many thousands of people assembled and told them to “fight much harder” and to walk to the Capitol and “show strength” to Congress. 

At one point Trump did say, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” 

But he later followed that up by saying Biden would be an “illegitimate president” if the election was certified. He told the crowd, “We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Most Republicans, including the candidates for New York governor, have been wary of assigning blame to Trump for what took place after: the violent attack on the Capitol building in which rioters invaded congressional offices with the intention of harming members of Congress, including Republicans, and Vice President Pence, who Trump repeatedly vilified leading up to and on January 6, 2021. (Pence endorsed Zeldin this week, while Trump has remained on the sidelines of the primary given ties to both Zeldin and Giuliani.)

Astorino is the only one who faulted Trump. “I do think he bears some responsibility,” he said of the former president, at the first debate. But he went on to describe the January 6 congressional hearings as “complete and utter political theater in Washington, D.C.”

The rest of the candidates were either circumspect or even praised the president. 

“I think President Trump was a great president and honestly, I'm hopeful that he runs again,” Giuliani said at the first debate.

Zeldin parroted select portions of the then-president’s words. “President Trump told his supporters to go peacefully and patriotically to the Capitol and if President Trump wants to run [in 2024], he should run and I believe that he will be the Republican nominee and he'll win,” he said at the debate. 

Wilson did not say the president was to blame. “Mr. Trump did not invade the Capitol,” he said. “The people who broke the law by invading the Capitol should be prosecuted and that's where the responsibility lies,” Wilson added, even as the January 6 committee, in part led by Republican Rep. Cheney, had already been outlining its case that Trump’s deeds had caused that law-breaking.

At one January 6 committee hearing, Cheney pointed to various actions Trump took that would make him liable for the Capitol riot: He “falsely declared victory” in the election. His campaign launched “a fraudulent media campaign” persuading millions of Americans that the election was stolen from him. He launched a “fraudulent fundraising campaign” based on those false claims. He and his allies “corruptly attempted” to pressure Pence to reject the electoral votes and he “provoked a violent mob” to pursue Pence. The then-president “oversaw and personally participated” in an effort to “vilify, threaten and pressure election officials” and legislators to change the election results. And, he worked with the Republican National Committee to create fake electoral slates and send those to federal officials. 

“These efforts were not some minor or ad hoc enterprise concocted overnight,” Cheney said. “Each required planning and coordination. Some required significant funding. All of them were overseen by President Trump.” 

“What happened on January 6 was an attempted coup and it failed, thankfully,” said NYPIRG’s Horner.

Horner said questions about whether Trump’s actions amounted to illegal behavior will ultimately fall to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. “I'm not in a place to know if he broke the law, but certainly he broke the political norm in our democracy that, for over two centuries, when you lose an election, you gracefully concede and pass the torch on to the winner,” he said. “He refuses to do that.” 

COVID-19 and Vaccination
Giuliani is the only candidate who has decided against receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and was therefore prevented from appearing in person at the first two debates. He was on stage for the final debate hosted by Newsmax. But all the candidates have sowed doubts about vaccines, the nature of COVID-19 as a highly-transmissible and deadly disease, and the reasoning behind covid mandates, even as the pandemic is far from over.

Zeldin in particular has railed against the push for as many people as possible to get “the covid shot,” as he typically refers to it, making it more an issue of government overreach than public health, though he is not alone in that among the candidates. Often, the candidates have focused on the personal freedom to not be vaccinated, typically ignoring the various vaccine mandates required of children to attend school that have helped prevent outbreaks of a variety of deadly diseases — creating widespread adult immunity via childhood vaccinations was not possible with COVID-19 given its novelty.

Astorino, among others, publicly questioned the efficacy of the covid vaccines because people can still contract and become ill with covid after being inoculated, leaving out that in the vast majority of cases the vaccines prevent severe illness or death.

“We're no longer in a pandemic. We've got to stop acting like we are,” Astorino said at the second debate. He also added, “We know, as the CDC has said, [the vaccine] does not stop the spread at all. We know that. Neither do those masks. We know that.” 

Though the CDC did say that vaccinated people could still be infected with covid (particularly the Delta variant), the agency has emphasized that those people are far less likely to get the virus than unvaccinated people and will experience less severe symptoms than if they weren’t vaccinated. There are also countless studies that show masking is extremely effective in preventing transmission of covid.  

Zeldin too questioned the vaccine even though, no matter the disease, vaccines have never been 100% effective. “The definition of vaccine has changed,” he insisted at the second debate. “I used to remember that if you get a vaccine, that means that you have immunity to what they're giving you that shot for but all of a sudden, suddenly with the COVID vaccine, the definition changes because even if you get it, you can still contract COVID.”

“I think it's a fundamentally different disease, and that's why I think it should be treated differently than existing vaccination requirements,” said Wilson, who did not explain how he sees it as fundamentally different and said the covid vaccine should not be mandated for children under the age of 5. 

“I think it's unfortunate that any elected official would discourage people from being vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Dr. Jay Varma, an international infectious disease expert who was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top advisor for the city’s public health response for most of the pandemic, beginning in April 2020. “The overwhelming consensus of public health experts, government or university, is that COVID vaccines are safe and effective.”

When asked, the candidates said they support required vaccinations for diseases like chicken pox and measles for children to attend schools, but would not add covid vaccination to that list, raising unfounded concerns about its rapid development and potential side effects. Giuliani even questioned, without any evidence at all, whether the vaccine could hamper the reproductive system of his young daughter as he insisted that he would not give her the vaccine.  

“I am not a biologist, nor am I an epidemiologist,” he said as he insisted he would need to see more data on the vaccine. “I think we've completely politicized the science when it comes to this at this point.” 

As Varma pointed out, the diseases for which vaccines are currently required in schools caused fewer deaths before those vaccines were available than covid already has in children. “We know that covid causes severe illness and death in children,” he said. “Any deaths in a child should be something that we try to avoid as much as possible.” He also noted that if children are sick then their parents stay home from work, which has consequences for the economy as well. 

All the Republican gubernatorial candidates have also promised to lift vaccination requirements for public sector workers and said that they would rehire state workers that were fired for refusing to get the covid vaccine. None spoke of the value of encouraging widespread vaccination in order to limit covid spread and reduce the most severe outcomes as much as possible, nor did they mention the possible risk of outbreaks from bringing those workers back to the workplace. 

Varma said the vaccine mandate widely increased the vaccination rate in the city and state, the benefit of which was significantly reducing the severity of illness and death among those who still contracted it. “We know that this virus continues to evolve and cause surges, and during every one of those surges, the single strongest protective factor is getting vaccinated,” he said. “So the best way to maintain that level of protection in New York is to have this mandate.”

Earlier this week, the CDC recommended that children between the ages of six months and 5 years should get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the newly-approved dosage, declaring it safe and effective. But at the second debate, three of the Republican candidates would not recommend that to their supporters, saying it was a decision best left to parents. 

Only Wilson encouraged people to get vaccinated and vaccinate their children. “I personally am vaccinated, boosted. I encourage people to do so,” he said. He added a caveat: “That is their choice and should not be required by the government, particularly for young children.”

Astorino also said that he has not vaccinated his children against covid. “My kids aren't vaccinated. My wife and I decided they don't need it. We follow the science,” he said, without elaborating on what science indicates children should not be vaccinated against COVID-19. “You're a parent, you can decide for your own children.”

Abortion in New York
Of the four candidates, only Wilson is pro-choice, supporting abortion rights for women. Like on other subjects where has differs from the other three candidates, he has voiced some caveats, such as saying he has some misgivings about New York’s law on abortion, which he believes “goes too far” in allowing non-doctor medical professionals to provide abortion care.

The candidates have all expressed concern about the state’s Reproductive Health Act, which was approved in 2019 and codified the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law. The legislation is particularly important in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling handed down on Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade. 

The candidates have repeatedly said they oppose so-called “partial-birth late-term abortions” that are allowed under the law, but partial-birth is a political formulation, not a medical term, and was created by anti-abortion activists. The state law does allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, but only if the mother’s life or health are at risk or if the fetus is not viable. Those abortions occur very rarely, but Zeldin, Giuliani, and Astorino regularly make it appear that they are common and that Democrats in New York favor late-term and “partial-birth” abortions.

Astorino, in particular, criticized abortions “going to the moment of birth,” even though that virtually never happens.

Critical Race Theory
New York’s K-12 schools curriculum does not include Critical Race Theory, a legal theory about ingrained racial bias in U.S. institutions that is taught in college-level courses and beyond, mostly law schools. But the state Board of Regents has launched a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” initiative aimed at inclusive and culturally responsive teaching and learning in schools.

The state’s DEI framework instructs school to consider acknowledging the role of racism and bigotry in American history, encourages family and community engagement, promotes a diverse school workforce, promotes student wellness and anti-discrimination policies, and more. 

The Republican candidates, except for Wilson, have all equated the teaching of the history of racism and the DEI initiative as tantamount to teaching CRT, and wielded that false allegation, just as other Republicans have used CRT nationally, to inflame racial tensions and stir up white parents about what their children are being ‘indoctrinated’ with.

CRT has become a controversial issue used by the right, a rhetorical tool in last year’s and this year’s elections to appeal to white voters. Those who oppose CRT say that it is used to indoctrinate children with “woke” ideology, convince children that all white people are racist, and erode parents’ rights in education. Dozens of states have even moved to ban CRT and, in their zeal, have also sought to prohibit broader anti-racist and culturally sensitive teaching. 

New York Republicans are no exception. 

“I would look at ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion,’ and I would call it what it is, which is Critical Race Theory 101,” Giuliani falsely said at the second debate. When asked, he could not define CRT or present an instance of when it was taught in schools. He also called equity a “dangerous concept” in education, conflating it with the idea that all students must have equal outcomes. 

“They keep coming up with new names for Critical Race Theory,” said Zeldin, also equating it with the DEI initiative. In May last year, when the federal Department of Education issued a draft rule about culturally responsive teaching in schools, Zeldin associated it with CRT. “Critical Race Theory is an indoctrination of kids that has no business in America's classrooms,” he tweeted. “This isn't teaching children how to combat racism & discrimination. It's a gross attempt to devalue, divide & dumb down our children.”

Astorino had a similar take. “[T]hings like CRT, which is seeping everywhere, is obviously when you divide people and tell people you're bad, you're a racist if you don't agree. No, that's not what we should be teaching,” he said.

Wilson largely side-stepped the question but said, “I look at it quite differently…which is that I think we have to celebrate the diversity of America but not go into these labels that don't really mean anything and are loaded terms.”

Bail Reform and Crime
In 2019, the Democrat-led state Legislature passed a major reform to state bail laws, eliminating cash bail for a series of misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses. Before and since its passage, conservatives and some moderates said it would lead to mayhem and have alleged that has transpired, even without facts to back up such claims.

The law was revisited in early 2020, just months after going into effect, and again this year by state lawmakers, partially rolling the reforms back each time. The changes were largely based on hearsay, anecdotes, and lies, but the chorus had become deafening and violent crime began to spike amid the pandemic. But there has remained a very limited connection between bail reform and violent crime.

At every turn, however, conservatives, some in law enforcement, and many moderate Democrats have pegged bail reform as the major, even singular, cause for the increase in violent crime despite data showing that there is “no clear connection,” as the Brennan Center for Justice concluded. Most of those critics of the law have also ignored the broader reality that violent crime spiked during the pandemic across the country and that many states, including those with Republican-led legislatures and governors, have not passed any similar legislation but have seen violent crime on the rise either way. 

Each of the Republican candidates for governor have promised that they will immediately move to repeal the bail reform – and a host of other criminal justice reforms –  though it would be a difficult task given Democrats control the Legislature by large margins.

Even Governor Kathy Hochul wanted broader changes to the bail law – including allowing judges to consider a “dangerousness standard” when setting bail – but those changes were rejected by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, though both houses did agree to some fairly significant changes to how bail can be assessed.

“Misinformation is bad, no matter what framework you're in,” Horner said. “It's important to tell people the truth, to offer evidence to buttress your policy claims. That's better for democracy and better for the electorate, even if it is the party faithful.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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