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Bail reform was a big campaign issue. How did it impact results?

Advocates for bail reform gather in support of the measure.
Center for Community Alternatives
Advocates for bail reform gather in support of the measure.

State lawmakers introduced bail reform laws that eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies several years ago. Now, many Republicans are trying to link link this legislation to the rising violent crime across the state, energizing their base and putting the issue at the front and center of the 2022 election cycle.

Campbell Public Affairs InstituteDirector Grant Reeher explains how this debate escalated.

"You have several high-profile incidents of violent crime that could be tracked back to accused suspects committing crimes while they were out awaiting their trial, and some of those were particularly violent or particularly disturbing," Reeher said. "So, those were elevated by candidates and political as well, so that became a part of the narrative."

He said this is most prevelent in the gubernatorial election between Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin.

"I think it would be impossible not to include the issue of crime, and safety and bail reform as one of the things that tighten that race, much more than it should have been on paper," Reeher said. "Kathy Hochul should have beaten Lee Zeldin by a considerable margin. It looks like she's going to win by six points or so. That's a lot closer than it should be in a state that looks like New York, particularly when you consider the candidate Lee Zeldin and the baggage he had in terms of his attachment to Donald Trump."

But, Reeher said this was countered by Democratic incumbent Rachel May handily winning in the 48th Senate District that covers Syracuse.

"Rachel May was a defender of the bail reform," Reeher said. "She was one of the few Democrats who was willing to really publically defend it and explain the reasoning for it, even after it came under a lot of political fire. But nonetheless, she held her seat. So, at least it wasn't enough of an issue to defeat her."

Reeher adds that Tuesday's election results, especially Hochul's victory, likely mean bail reform laws won't see much change anytime soon.

Matt Hassan is a senior broadcast and digital journalism student at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is minoring in History and sport management. Matt grew up in Port Washington, New York on Long Island. He creates print, radio, and television stories almost daily on a wide range of topics, including hard news, profiles, and sports. Matt hopes to pursue a career as either a reporter or producer of news.