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New York’s Red Splash: Everything We Want to Know!

The Empire State, of all places, has given the Republican Party some comfort following a disastrous midterm election. New York, of all places, has given the national Republican Party some solace following a mainly discouraging midterm election.

Representative Lee Zeldin’s very close loss to Governor Kathy Hochul gave New Yorkers a peek at what real political competitiveness in general elections looks like in a state long thought to be an untouchable Democratic bastion.

Millions of New Yorkers from various backgrounds, who may have preferred Hochul to her opponent but are nonetheless unhappy about the state’s leftward tilt in recent years, particularly on crime and public safety, will gain from the heated campaign, in addition to Republicans.

An observer could have been excused for believing Hochul and Zeldin were contesting distinct states based on how the two candidates conducted their campaigns throughout the summer. The governor positioned herself as a supporter of both gun control and abortion rights.

It was reasonable to assume that these widespread, high-profile issues would inspire enough downstate voters to give her a straightforward victory, especially when up against a rival with strong ties to the late president Donald Trump and a historically conservative voting record.

Zeldin, on the other hand, promised to oust Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg on his first day in office, focusing with a laser-like concentration on reducing crime and disorder (the state constitution would have given Bragg a right to due process before this removal).

Hochul downplayed the threat of crime and disruption, saying New Yorkers that their feeling of dread was to blame, despite polls showing that voters’ main concern was public safety. She even referred to Republicans who raised the alarm over a nearly 30% increase in city index crimes as “master manipulators” who were part of an “all-American plot to try to persuade people that they’re not as safe in Democratic states.”

However, as Hochul’s polling numbers dropped and the election moved into a tight range, she was forced to face a straightforward fact: voters care about crime and disorder, regardless of party or area. Political rivalry succeeded in its goal of forcing a reckoning, which benefited the people of New York City.

Hochul declared on October 22 that the state will cover the cost of 1,200 police overtime shifts on the subways while standing next to New York City mayor Eric Adams. This instantly brought results: arrests nearly doubled, quality-of-life summonses more than doubled, and MTA CEO Janno Lieber hailed the “significant progress” accomplished in a single week’s time.

Hochul ought to have understood that adding extra police to the subway system would make New Yorkers feel safer without the need for the threat of an ugly electoral defeat. However, well-designed systems take into consideration and address human weaknesses. Political rivalry should at least produce responsive leaders if it cannot produce wise leaders.

Contrarily, the unchecked one-party government offered New Yorkers criminal justice policies that give repeat offenders virtually infinite opportunities. For instance, despite bench warrants for failing to appear in court, just 10 career criminals made nearly 500 arrests between 2020 and this August, whereas the majority of them were still roaming the streets.

By channeling voters’ resentment and bringing attention to New York’s absurd and draconian criminal-justice policies, Zeldin rendered a vital public service. The same would be true if a Democrat gave a Republican stronghold that desperately needed one a reality check.

Zeldin’s impressive performance will be felt for years. In particular, Mike Lawler, who defeated Sean Patrick Maloney, the formidable ten-term incumbent in charge of the committee in charge of choosing Democrats to the House, rode on his coattails to success. Republicans will hold four of New York’s delegation’s flipped congressional seats come January, the most of any state, and they will play a crucial role in the GOP’s projected takeover of the House.

Another irony is that Hochul adopted the heavily gerrymandered congressional district lines created by the Democratic legislature at the beginning of the year, which were intended to remove three or four seats from Republican competition. A special master redrew the congressional and state senate maps after a successful legal challenge at the state’s highest court with the goal of fostering more political rivalry. The outcomes this week confirmed his findings and illustrated how crucial redistricting is.

Democrats’ veto-proof supermajority control of the state senate also seems to be in jeopardy. If they do, Hochul will have more influence over the upcoming legislative session, particularly the crucial state budget procedure. This gives rise to cautious optimism about public safety, especially the possibility of reversing the excesses of policies like bail and discovery reform.

Just before the election, Hochul made the following pledge in a campaign ad: “You deserve to feel safe, and as your governor, I won’t stop working until you do.” If that promise holds up, only time will tell. However, the governor should take this as a warning.

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