FWD.us Post-Election Analysis: Criminal Justice Reform Won at Polls Despite Fear Tactics and Multi-Million Dollar Opposition Spending

ALBANY, NY – FWD.us today released a report highlighting the extravagant measures taken by criminal justice reform opponents during the 2020 election cycle in New York. The report analyzes opposition spending to defeat elected officials across the state who voted in favor of bail reform. Despite the attacks, 95% of incumbents who voted in favor of bail reform, including five of the seven candidates targeted by anti-bail reform super PACs, defeated their opponents, clinching a supermajority for the Senate conference that supported a robust bail reform package in 2019.

“The tidal wave of spending and fearmongering was rejected by voters across New York who sent lawmakers a clear message: criminal justice reform is a winner at the ballot box,” said FWD.us’ New York State Director Rodney Holcombe. “Nearly all of the candidates who supported bail reform are headed back to Albany with a clear mandate to pursue ambitious criminal justice reforms. Now that voters have spoken, it is time to get to work. It is critical that the legislature pass Elder Parole and the Fair and Timely Parole Act, protect bail reform, and work to further decarcerate the state’s jails and prisons. Governor Cuomo should immediately use his clemency powers to free vulnerable New Yorkers and those who are nearing their release date, a strategy endorsed by public health and public safety officials since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These election results make it clear that reforms like these are the will of the electorate.”

Four major super PACs spent money on anti-bail reform tactics during the 2020 election cycle. These four super PACS spent $6.2 million to peddle lies, fearmongering, and scare tactics related to bail reform through digital ads, direct mail, phone and text banking, and billboards.

With a page taken directly out of the “Willie Horton” style of political advertising, the ads painted the incumbent senators who had supported bail reform as supporters of crime, and claimed that bail reform led to an uptick in crime, an argument that has been debunked time and time again. Despite these intensive efforts, voters overwhelmingly rejected the claims and sent a mandate to New York’s elected leaders: pass bold criminal justice reforms and save lives.

Topline spending numbers can be found here:

  • Four super PACS spent a total of $6.2 million
  • $3.5 million in TV ad spending targeted pro-reform incumbents
  • Nearly $600,000 spent on Kevin Thomas’ race alone
  • 95% (37 out of 39) of State Senate candidates who voted in favor of bail reform in 2019 and ran for reelection in 2020 won their races, including five of the seven candidates targeted by anti-bail reform super PACs

View the full report here.

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