GOP points to bail reform as reason for red wave in Long Island DA’s races

Legislative Gazette file photo by Marlee Capuano
State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy speaks with reporters outside the state Capital in Albany. Langworthy, speaking about Republican victories in the Nassau and Suffolk county district attorneys races on Nov. 2, said, “We need to capitalize on these victories and keep the momentum going into 2022 when we need to accomplish our ultimate goal of electing a Republican governor.”

Long Island saw a mini red wave on Election Day, with voters electing Republican district attorneys in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. The upsets are being celebrated by the Republican State Committee, which says the results represent New Yorkers’ frustration with Albany’s controversial bail reform laws passed in 2019.

Bail reform was a central issue of campaign advertising and candidate town halls on Long Island in the weeks leading up to the elections. 

Critics of bail reform argue the new regulations threaten public safety by letting potentially dangerous criminals back on the street after an arrest. Supporters say it promotes the idea of innocent until proven guilty and allows low-level criminals to lead productive lives while awaiting trial.

Anne Donnelly upset Democratic state Sen. Todd Kaminsky in Nassau County. Kaminsky was a former federal prosecutor, who voted for the 2019 law that eliminated cash bail for defendants accused of many misdemeanors and “non-violent” felony crimes.

The Nassau DA’s office became vacant this year when Madeline Singas was appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals. The special election was held to replace her. Kaminsky was heavily favored to win the race.  

Donnelly, who was deputy chief of the Nassau DA’s Rackets and Enterprise Crime Bureau, won 145,766 or 60 percent of the vote to 97,299 votes or 40 percent to Kaminsky, a 20 point victory.

Kaminsky had voted for the bail reform as part of the 2019 state budget, and later pushed for amendments to the law a year later following complaints. The law was intended to help poor defendants who could not afford to pay cash bail so they would not be jailed while awaiting trial.

In addition to the district attorney’s race, Republicans won the Nassau County comptroller and Nassau County executive seats.

In Suffolk County, Republican Ray Tierney defeated Democratic incumbent District Attorney Tim Sini with 145,933 votes or 57 percent to 109,060 votes or 43 percent. Bail reform was also a prevalent issue in this race. Sini was a critic of his fellow Democratic lawmakers loosening of bail restrictions and may have lost his seat due to the reform.

Another potential upset in Nassau County: Republican challenger Bruce Blakeman led Democratic incumbent Nassau County Executive Laura Curran with 127,414 votes or 52 percent to 117,158 votes or 48 percent.

Curran was elected four years ago; she ran on anti-corruption after ex-county executive Ed Mangano was arrested and convicted on bribery charges. There are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 mail-in ballots that have yet to be counted. Curran would need to win a large majority to overcome the differential.

Republican Elaine Phillips, a former state senator, also shocked Democratic rival Ryan Cronin in the Nassau comptroller’s race, with 61 percent or 145,175 votes to 94,445 votes or 39 percent.

On the morning after the elections, Nick Langworthy, chairman of the New York State Republican Committee said “We need to capitalize on these victories and keep the momentum going into 2022 when we need to accomplish our ultimate goal of electing a Republican governor.
“This is the only way we will truly change New York and put it back on a path to prosperity, public safety and freedom.”