NY Democrats walk back soft-on-crime stances as midterm votes loom

With Republicans hammering the issue of public safety ahead of the November midterm elections, Democrats in two key New York House races are walking back their earlier support for criminal justice reform.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released over the weekend found that 52% of Americans trust Republicans to do a better job handling crime, while just 38% gave Democrats the nod on the issue.

The same survey found that 69% of Americans view crime as a “highly important” issue, trailing only the economy (89%), education (77%), and inflation (76%), and ahead of abortion (62%).

In New York City’s only battleground House district, Democrat Max Rose has changed his tune as he gears up for a 2020 rematch against incumbent Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

In a 2018 candidate questionnaire for the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Rose said he supported “federal and state efforts to enact criminal justice reform and end mass incarceration, including sentencing and prison reforms (for example, HR 3356 Prison Reform and Redemption Act), bail reform, and the closure of Rikers Island.”

Max Rose
Democratic congressional hopeful Max Rose, in this image from June, leads a protest outside of incumbent Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ office. He is seeking to retake the seat, which he lost to Malliotakisin 2020.
Paul Martinka

Just four years later, Rose urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to call an emergency session of the state legislature and toughen the state’s controversial bail reform law.

“We need more Democrats to come out and say the bail law needs to be fixed. This has to happen,” Rose told The Post July 31.

“This is very simple. Gov. Hochul and the legislature need to have a special session to change the bail law, including imposing a ‘dangerous standard’. Judges need the discretion to detain recidivists. Get it fixed,” he added.

“There is no reason we can’t have both public safety and fairness,” Rose went on.

The Rose campaign noted Wednesday that in December 2019, the then-congressman spoke out against New York’s criminal justice reforms, warning that they were moving too rapidly.

“We can and we must ensure our justice system is fair and maintains our public safety — but the fact is with the bail and discovery reforms Albany went too far, too fast,” Rose said in a statement at the time.

Police at the scene of a shooting in The Bronx on Sept. 2, in which an off-duty police office was grazed by a bullet.
Police at the scene of a shooting in The Bronx on Sept. 2, in which an off-duty police office was grazed by a bullet.
Christopher Sadowski

Rose campaign manager Carl Sanford also pointed out that in April 2020, Malliotakis had applauded bail reforms in the New York legislature after the original package received widespread criticism.

“Nicole is now slamming the very law she praised as a step in the right direction in 2020. Max has always stood up to his own party and demanded judges be allowed to keep dangerous people off our streets. He will never bend on that, unlike Nicole who flip-flops like you and I breathe,” Sanford said in a statement to The Post.

Malliotakis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the Hudson Valley, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, seeking reelection in the newly redrawn 17th Congressional District amid a challenge by ​Republican Assemblyman Michael Lawler​, ​​has also appeared to revise his stand on cash bail. 

New York 17th Congressional District Democratic primary candidate U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, left, delivers his victory speech next to his daughters and his husband, Randy Florke, right, during an election night party in Peekskill, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022.
Incumbent Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney — seen here declaring victory in his 2022 primary race — now faces a spirited challenge from Republican Michael Lawler​.

During a 2018 debate on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network for state attorney general candidates, Maloney said he was in favor of “ending cash bail” and would “absolutely” make it a “top priority,” according to Fox News

But in April 2022, Maloney noted approvingly on Twitter that the Empire State’s budget includes “reforms to the bail law.”​

“​No one can say the old system was working and didn’t need reform. But, it’s essential that we keep dangerous people off the streets​,” he said.

​”These changes are an important and necessary step​,” he added. 

​Maloney’s campaign has claimed he never directly advocated for the bail law in its original form, and expressed support in the AG debate for a system that didn’t use cashless bail while supporting the inclusion of safeguards to ensure violent criminals remain locked up.

In a statement to The Post, Maloney campaign spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg said the congressman believes in a judicial system that “ensures both safety and fairness.”

“He has consistently demanded that Albany keep dangerous people off the streets while also making sure people face equal justice whether they are rich or poor​,” she said.