Jumaane Williams and Tom Suozzi
At the primary debate of this yr’s Democratic major for governor, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi offered a cordial entrance to at least one one other on Thursday evening whilst they sought to differentiate their particular person political ideologies. The candidates reserved their barbs for Governor Kathy Hochul, who declined to take part in Thursday’s however has agreed to 2 upcoming debates.
Over the course of an hour, Williams and Suozzi expressed their comparable and differing positions on varied points confronting New York together with gun violence, the potential repeal of Roe v. Wade federal abortion rights, the state’s financial restoration, the worsening opioid disaster, and local weather change, amongst others. Williams, who misplaced to Hochul within the 2018 major for lieutenant governor, is an avowed “activist elected official” and a progressive left candidate backed by the likes of the Working Families Party. Suozzi describes himself as a “common sense Democrat” with extra average leanings much like Hochul, although on Thursday he repeatedly sought to place himself to the governor’s left on some points, like gun management, and to her proper on others, like tackling crime.
On a number of events, Williams and Suozzi had been in settlement, and skilled their criticisms in direction of the absent governor. Thursday’s debate was hosted by Spectrum News, airing in New York City on its NY1 community, and moderated by political anchors Errol Louis and Susan Arbetter.
Williams mentioned his high difficulty is public security, whereas Suozzi mentioned that crime within the state is the main difficulty for his marketing campaign. But they range on the options that they offered, particularly on gun violence, a difficulty on the forefront within the wake of the tragic mass shootings in Buffalo and in Uvalde, Texas, in addition to the continuing pandemic-era spikes in shootings and murders in New York City and different cities across the state and nation.
Williams, as he has up to now, insisted on investments in communities and in non-law enforcement options to gun violence prevention. “What we have to stop doing is spending more money on the consequence of accountability, which you should have for doing those things, and spend more on the prevention,” he mentioned.
In his response, Williams took a shot at Hochul for having acquired an endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA) up to now. “Buffalo, where I was, is reeling from that hate crime, but they’ve been reeling from other types of violence as well that no one has addressed,” he added.
“I agree with everything that Jumaane said and I’m glad that he pointed out the hypocrisy of this governor, who sought the NRA’s endorsement, voted with the NRA, took money from the NRA and had an ‘A’ rating from the NRA in Congress,” mentioned Suozzi, referring to Hochul’s report of roughly a decade in the past and noting that he himself had a “F” grade from the gun rights group. Suozzi touted his 15-point “crime intervention and prevention” plan together with measures reminiscent of higher implementing the state’s Red Flag legislation, which was enacted in 2019 and permits weapons to be taken away from people who find themselves deemed a risk to themselves or others. “We need to educate the police, social workers, mental health experts, teachers, family members that you can take guns away from people that are mentally unstable, that have a drug and alcohol problem, by bringing them through a due process procedure,” he mentioned.
Where there have been key distinctions between the 2 Democrats was on broader felony justice points. The Legislature and Governor Hochul lately accredited extra tweaks to the state’s bail reform legislation that was first accredited in 2019 however which has, with very restricted proof, been broadly blamed by critics for the state’s latest uptick in crime. The new modifications had been comparatively minimal, together with permitting judges to set bail for extra gun crimes. However, Hochul and different leaders reminiscent of New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Suozzi have referred to as for permitting judges to think about a “dangerousness standard” when setting bail, a proposal that progressive legislators have rejected.
Suozzi supported the modifications to the legislation, although he insisted “we need many, many more.” He has additionally pushed for the dangerousness commonplace and faulted Hochul for failing to get it accredited. It was one in every of a number of points the place Suozzi mentioned Hochul has not proven sufficient management or come via for Adams, whom Suozzi is shut with and supported all through his profitable mayoral marketing campaign.
Williams reiterated that there isn’t any proof of a hyperlink between larger crime and the bail reform legal guidelines of 2019. “The Democratic Party I belong to does a horrible job in talking about public safety,” he mentioned. He additionally famous that calls for by progressives to place $1 billion within the state funds for gun violence prevention had been ignored.
When pressed by the moderators, Williams identified that he has by no means used the phrase “defund the police,” saying he by no means thought it was the appropriate framing however that he additionally doesn’t imagine it acceptable to attempt to lecture activists on their language. Williams has lengthy been a part of the motion that garnered nationwide momentum in 2020 and goals to maneuver funding from legislation enforcement to social providers and neighborhood assets.
“We know that law enforcement has a role to play. We want to lift that up with transparency and accountability. But if we want to support them, one thing we could do is make sure that everyone else has the services that they need as well,” he mentioned.
With latest indications that the U.S. Supreme Court is leaning in direction of overturning Roe v. Wade, which established the federal proper to abortion, New York leaders have been taking steps to make the state a haven for reproductive rights. At Thursday’s debate, Suozzi and Williams had been requested how they’d defend abortions in the event that they had been governor and given an opportunity to elucidate their very own evolution on the difficulty. Both mentioned they help making abortion a constitutional proper within the state (Roe protections had been enshrined in New York legislation in 2019).
“This state has to strengthen its laws, has to make sure that it is a sanctuary for folks to come get the service that they need,” Williams mentioned. “What we also have to make sure we do is elongate that conversation so we have reproductive justice. So that people can have affordability, Black, brown, [immigrants], when they make this decision.”
He additionally reiterated that his previous reservations about abortion – which he expressed greater than a decade in the past – had been based mostly on his private religion and expertise. “I brought myself into it. That should not have been done,” he mentioned, insisting that he has since “removed myself…when I answer this question, make sure I answer it first from the people who will be most affected.”
Suozzi touted his “100% rating from Planned Parenthood” and mentioned he had by no means been against abortion. “We have to do everything we can to keep New York State as a model for the rest of the nation to make sure that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible,” mentioned Suozzi. But, he added, “I’ve always said that abortion should remain safe and legal. I used to say that it should be safe, legal and rare and we should encourage education and contraception.” He now says protected, authorized, and accessible however reaffirmed he believes in increasing training and contraception to keep away from unintended pregnancies.
When the candidates got a chance to cross-examine one another, their questions had been designed to elicit criticisms of Hochul to not differentiate from the opposite.
Williams requested Suozzi how he managed to obtain an F from the NRA when Hochul acquired an A, although they’re each moderates. “I’m a lifelong Democrat and kept those values,” Suozzi mentioned. He contrasted himself with Hochul’s previous conservsative positions reminiscent of her opposition to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and her present left leanings, together with her appointment of an avowed democratic socialist to her administration. “She used to be on the far right and now she’s on the far left. I don’t know what she stands for,” he mentioned.
Suozzi, in flip, requested Williams his evaluation of Hochul’s efficiency. Williams pointed to a latest Siena ballot from April exhibiting Hochul’s approval drop. “That means people believe that the job she’s doing is not good for them,” he mentioned. “They can feel it. They are facing eviction. They are facing foreclosure. They can’t pay for their medicine. They can’t pay for their medical care. They feel it right now.”
The two candidates did provide completely different prescriptions for financial revival, whether or not in New York City the place Mayor Adams needs employees to return to the workplace or in Upstate New York, the place native economies have struggled for many years.
Suozzi mentioned the requisite for the return to places of work is public security. “People are not coming back to their office buildings in New York City because they don’t feel safe. They don’t feel safe to take the subway…and it’s not COVID, it’s crime,” he mentioned, although there may be restricted proof to help that assertion. He did say he was open to dialog with the personal and public sectors about permitting distant work the place doable. On the upstate financial system, Suozzi insisted that the state wants to chop taxes and rules.
Williams mentioned the state wants to guide in embracing a hybrid work mannequin that enables for a piece and life steadiness with out affecting productiveness. “This is a great example of where people like the governor are trying to force the old normal when the veil has been lifted and we understand that we have a new normal,” he mentioned.
He additionally criticized the governor for persevering with failed insurance policies of the previous that he mentioned haven’t helped Upstate New York, reminiscent of former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program. “Instead of dumping money into these big projects, instead of dumping money into big corporations coming, what if we gave small businesses upstate and across the state…the same tax incentives that were given to these projects that never produced the things we wanted to produce?,” he mentioned.
One element of a doable financial increase upstate has been proof-to-work cryptocurrency mining, which comes at a serious power and environmental price. Williams referred to as for a two-year moratorium on that sort of mining, aligned with a doable moratorium being thought-about by the State Legislature, noting that it has been banned in sure different international locations.
Suozzi emphasised his pro-environment report, however he insisted that local weather options must be carried out and funded on the federal stage. “[We] can’t do it all by ourselves here in New York state where we’re pushing our utility rates through the roof and it’s hurting the people that can least afford to pay their utility rates,” he mentioned. Pressed by Arbetter to reply the query in regards to the proposed moratorium, he did considerably reluctantly say he would think about a “brief” moratorium on crypto-mining.
When pressed on how they’d deal with covid restrictions if instances ought to spike once more within the state, each candidates criticized the Cuomo (and by extension Hochul) administration for the way it dealt with the pandemic.
Williams mentioned he can be open to reinstituting minor restrictions and protections reminiscent of vaccine and masks mandates. “What we need to do when those numbers are going up is we need to do a little bit of restrictions at that time so we can prevent stronger ones moving forward,” he mentioned.
Suozzi was extra circumspect about bringing again any restrictions. “I just want to be very clear that I supported mandates back in 2020, and most of 2021. But there’s come a time now that mandates are too toxic in our culture, and they’re not appropriate at this time,” he mentioned.
There was additionally a transparent gulf between the 2 candidates’ strategy to the opioid disaster, which has worsened considerably lately, notably throughout the pandemic.
Williams insisted on a non-punitive strategy of “compassionate care,” pointing to the success of two overdose prevention facilities in New York City which have saved lives. “We want to make sure that we’re treating people as human beings who need assistance,” he mentioned.
Suozzi, nevertheless, appeared against the facilities and implied that they inspired open drug use, although that’s what they’re designed to stop. “It’s not fair to communities that they’re being overburdened with these injection sites, with methadone sites, all concentrated in certain neighborhoods and not in other neighborhoods,” he mentioned, whereas calling for a complete plan to deal with psychological well being within the state together with the growth of Kendra’s Law, which permits for court-ordered out-patient therapy of people who could also be a hazard to themselves or others and was expanded already this yr within the April state funds deal.
Both candidates referred to as for extra funding for the SUNY and CUNY techniques, although Williams pushed for “free public education” whereas Suozzi mentioned “the answer to everything is not college” and insisted the state should put money into abilities and jobs coaching.
In two lightning rounds, the candidates gave transient solutions to numerous questions, each important and trivial.
Neither was in favor of completely suspending the state’s gasoline tax, which was suspended until the top of the yr within the state funds.
Suozzi supported a four-year extension of mayoral management of metropolis colleges – Mayor Adams was simply awarded a two-year extension. Williams insisted it needs to be “municipal control” as a substitute, with the City Council and different native electeds taking part in a better function.
Williams didn’t say whether or not the Legislature ought to carry the state cap on constitution colleges. Suozzi mentioned the state cap ought to stay intact however the cap in New York City, which has already been met, needs to be lifted.
They each supported a rise within the state minimal wage. And they each had been in favor of banning state elected officers from buying and selling shares.
Asked which former governor they think about a job mannequin, Suozzi pointed to Mario Cuomo.
Williams mentioned, “The only thing I can say is, in about four years, I’d like to say myself.”
[LISTEN: Max Politics Podcast: Tom Suozzi on His Run for Governor]