by Dave Warner
Editor’s Note: Continued from Monday’s Part I on Harry Wilson
In a nutshell, Wilson says he has a plan for turning around the state using the Governor’s authority on three specific things: A 20-25% reduction in taxes for everyone, a reduction in the cost of living which is particularly important for the middle class and working families and rolling back the crime policy changes that have taken place over the last three years.
Wilson is supported by Unite NY and one of their solutions to improve the state’s political climate is term limits. “If there weren’t a movement for term limits, I would term limit myself. But, I want to pass legislation that actually creates term limits for the statewide offices and the legislature,” Wilson commented.
He says that it’s so hard to beat an incumbent in the state, that a lot of good people don’t even try, so the people lose access to those qualified individuals and their talents. “I’ve always been a big believer in term limits. If your mentality is I’m here for a short period of time to help the state, that’s a very different perspective than I want to be here as long as I can.”
We have way too much vitriol in politics, says Wilson. “Each side demonizing the other to stoke their own base and get elected. For most people, the biggest risk to their re-election is the primary, not the general election. I think we need to increase competition and that’s why I think this redistricting fight is awesome.”
This corrosiveness is really bad for the country with one side always attacking the other. “My style is much more of trying to bring people together. I’m even-keeled and I don’t complain about the other side. I focus on how we get the solutions. You can’t get those solutions if you always see the other side as evil.”
On crime, Wilson says that he’s fond of saying that the first duty of government is to protect the citizens. “That’s why we formed governments, centuries ago.”
“We had actually been doing a pretty good job of it for a long time state-wide. We’ve totally hurt that over the last several years with a bunch of policies that came out of Albany that have led to huge spikes in crime, cashless bail being one, less is more, raise the age, the change to the discovery statutes, and the reduction in police forces across the state,” are some examples he stated.
He said that in New York City alone in the last two years, they’ve lost more than 5,500 police officers. Half are retirement and half are people leaving. “They are effectively reducing the police force at a time when crime is up.”
Wilson has put out a 14-page plan that details how he would approach the criminal justice problems in the state. “People have to feel safe. That’s what the government is supposed to do. It’s always been an important issue for me.”
When they began putting the plan together, they talked to a lot of people on the ground – police officers, defense attorneys, etc., to find out what they were seeing in real life.
“The most common response we got was that ‘no one in politics ever has asked me for my opinion’. They don’t get asked if the policies have made a difference or not,” he said.
Wilson said that New York is the only state in the country that does not allow a judge to have a ‘dangerousness’ standard. “Every other state and the Federal Government all allow judges to have this standard.”
When you look at the data, you find that a very large percentage of the crime today is being committed by those that are out on cashless bail is what his campaign has determined.
He says that he wants to return some of the common sense things in combating crime that were working. “People we interviewed who were in high-crime neighborhoods and were the victims of these crimes wanted the plainclothes units and cameras because it made them safer.”
Wilson is also going to target district attorneys that don’t enforce the law. “The Governor has the authority under Article Thirteen of the State Constitution to remove district attorneys not doing their job.”
Another thing that he is focused on, is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention. “Think about a situation where someone commits a crime, and seven officers come to the scene. They all have body cams and you can produce footage from six of the seven, but for some reason, that seventh camera was off or broken.”
“Three years ago, the DA could say we don’t have footage from the seventh camera, but we have all angles covered with the other six and there’s nothing to suggest you’d see something else. The judge would make an assessment if there was a problem or not.”
Now, if they can’t bring the seventh camera, Wilson says they can’t bring the case and that it creates an undue burden on the prosecutor. One of the many reasons why so few cases are now being brought to trial. “A wave of prosecutors across the state have quit because they don’t want to deal with that and they can’t do their jobs effectively.”
He says that it doesn’t get any attention, but that it has a huge impact.
When it comes to the shooting in Buffalo, he says the Governor does what she typically does, which is to create a political response to a real problem. “I would argue that we should figure out what happened here, what the breakdown was, and have training to address that, but still allow police officers discretion. In her statewide mandate, what ends up happening is if someone doesn’t like their neighbor and they call in a complaint, that police officer will then be required to put that person on a protective order list, which is a violation of that person’s Constitutional rights and not the purpose of the law.”
Wilson says that he’s big on discretion and training. “If there’s a problem, let’s figure out how to fix that problem instead of creating these blanket mandates that are made by some politician that’s not dealing with the real-world issues.”
He says, “I’m a defender of the Second Amendment and I always have been. I grew up shooting since I was eight years old in the backyard with my dad. I think 99.999% of gun owners are law-abiding citizens and when Hochul immediately goes towards new restrictions, it’s exactly what people fear. That Democrat politicians use that as a pretext to take away gun rights.”
“There is a common-sense solution. I do believe we should have red flag laws. If someone is mentally ill or a threat, that should be identified,” he stated.
When it comes to politicians, he has plenty of critiques for them. “They talk about a lot of things but don’t really measure results. They’re more motivated about talking about the issue and attacking the other side than actually delivering results.”
In the case of Covid, the early days were full of a lot of unknowns and he gives a long leash to everyone in public life who had to make decisions about the pandemic. “It was a scary time and it was unclear how bad it was going to be, and I gave a fair amount of latitude with folks that were dealing with it at that time.”
He said that by the time you got to mid-spring, there were ways to deal with it. Businesses could use the proper PPE. “We did this with our companies because we wanted to get people back to work as fast as possible safely. We were up and running in May of 2020.” Wilson said that people were really happy to be back to work.
“The other thing we really pressed for was schools being opened. The school shutdowns devastated a generation of kids. Our kids are affluent and have access to tutors and online resources with broadband at home and it still was really painful for them.”
For kids in a lower income bracket, it was far worse. “A lot of these kids just shut down.”
“Education to me is an important issue. It’s a great equalizer, that’s why I was able to get to Harvard through the Johnstown Public Schools and it really opened up a lot of doors for me. I think the fact that we are failing a generation of kids is unacceptable,” he stated.
In New York, Wilson feels like we have fallen even further behind other states because our shutdowns went longer. “My example is Massachusetts, right next door. Thirty years ago, when Bill Weld got elected as Governor, the schools were pretty mediocre. He made a big emphasis on accountability, testing, and training. As a result, Massachusetts schools are number one in the country. They spend a third less than New York does.”
Wilson says that it’s because they have cultural accountability and they have a collaboration between teachers and the administration. “It does mean we have to have high standards for our teachers and for our students. I think most people want that, but teacher union leadership doesn’t.”
“I’ve worked with every major union and basically have sold the notion that you have to think long-term. You’ll have better success and everybody wins,” Wilson said.