WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - With fewer than 100 days to go before election day, Republicans are turning to a tried and true issue - law and order.
Especially among the Republican base, law and order has traditionally been a driver of voter turnout - the reasoning being the more concerned people are about their safety, the more likely they are to vote. In a summer that has seen protests statewide and nationwide, some violent, Republicans believe emphasizing their support for police is a winning issue.
They need all the help they can get. Democrats control Albany, and even the most optimistic Republican doesn’t see that changing this election cycle. So winning in November means holding onto what they have, and maybe, just maybe, picking up a seat here or there.
Which brings us to noon Wednesday, and the campaign event held in front of the Jefferson County courthouse, billed as a “Back The Blue” event. A line-up of local Republicans, on hand to pledge allegiance to the police and throw a few bombs in the direction of Democrats.
Nick Langworthy, the relatively new state party chairman, declared police were “under siege from radical leftists, anarchists and criminals,” but Republicans “proudly declare - we back the blue.”
“One single year of totalitarian Democrat control of Albany has shown taxpayers across New York what consequences elections have, and that’s why we need to launch a New York comeback.”
What is he talking about?
Well, Republicans are particularly irked at the bail reform pushed through by Governor Cuomo and the legislature, which releases without bail most people who have been arrested. They also don’t like aspects of the “Raise The Age” bill, which raises the age of adult responsibility for young people charged with a crime.
They say bail reform has pushed people back onto the streets to commit more crimes - it’s not clear to what degree that has really happened - and they blame the one party rule of Governor Cuomo and the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
“The examples that we have across the state of New York should wake up our governor, should wake up the people, the left agenda, that are pushing this type of policy,” said Ken Blankenbush, who represents much of Jefferson County, all of Lewis County, and part of St. Lawrence County in the state assembly.
Bail reform, Blankenbush said, is “really handcuffing our police department and our district attorney.”
Will Barclay, who represents a little of Jefferson County and all of Oswego County in the state assembly and who, more importantly, leads the Republicans in the assembly, said “Anybody who thinks this is a New York City issue, I’m here to tell you this is an issue that’s affecting all New Yorkers.”
‘Back The Blue’ is in part a reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the country since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. Those protests have challenged the way policing is done in the United States, and have raised the issue of whether there is systemic racism among police. They have led to calls to ‘defund’ the police.
The Republicans were having none of it Wednesday.
Kristyna Mills, Jefferson County’s District Attorney, said “Of course there are a few bad eggs across the country, there are in every single profession. But you don’t see people out there rioting because a teacher does something wrong. You don’t see people saying ‘We need to defund teaching.’ No, only law enforcement. And that is nonsensical.”
And when a reporter challenged Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpenelli with this question: “So what do you say to the argument you guys don’t get it, you don’t know what it’s like to be a Black American and have to deal with the police?”
Carpenelli responded: “I say that’s not true at all sir. We’re all one in America. No matter where you walk in this planet. God put us all here as one. We have to stop looking at color.”