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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

The newly elected play to the base

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, NYC Mayor Eric Adams

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. (Credit: Alvin Bragg photo by AP/ Craig Ruttle; Eric Adams photo by AP/ Seth Wenig; and Bruce Blakeman photo by Howard Simmons).

Three newly elected officials from the region used their first days in office to generate controversy — by doing what they gave voters every reason to believe they would do.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams all took actions that drew questions of propriety from critics along with kudos from their fans.

All swore two weeks ago to faithfully execute the laws. These are the moments when their political capital is highest. Nobody has had a chance to tire of them. Promises have yet to be broken.

Local incumbency has a different rhythm than it once did.

Not too long ago, the freshly elected were presumed to move at first toward the institutional middle. Having just secured their base at the ballot box, they'd presumably look to forge new understandings with others in the name of collaboratively performing their duties.

No more.

Blakeman issued unenforceable orders to resist the state's enforcement of mask mandates. School boards run schools, and governors guide public health emergencies; Blakeman doesn't seem to care about such trifles.

Of course, that doesn't keep an excited circle of highly-motivated mask-o-phobes from encouraging and applauding the new Republican executive’s exhibition of defiance against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Blakeman's opening act is beyond what you could have expected from Nassau's last GOP executive, Ed Mangano, who'd allied himself from the start with Hochul’s Democratic predecessor Andrew M. Cuomo. Circumstances were different; for one thing, adherence to a faction had not yet taken such a strong hold in the state and nation.

Like all of the state's district attorneys, Bragg has significant discretion in how to proceed on criminal cases. His widely-publicized refusal to help enforce what he doesn't wish to enforce will have more relevant clout than Blakeman’s.

He instantly clashed with the NYPD — the traditional close partner of any borough D.A. — and also frightened potential victims of the crimes he intends to go easier on.

Some even argue that Bragg is stepping on the role of Albany legislators who clearly wrote laws meant to be prosecuted, such as farebeating, prostitution, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, marijuana misdemeanors, certain trespasses.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell wrote in a department email that she is "very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims." Logically, police unions are on the same page.

Don’t expect backlash, however, from progressives committed to minimizing incarceration, or from City Council members who jerked the knee to "defund the police" chants at the height of the uproar over George Floyd's slaying in Minnesota.

Adams, the new mayor, had no regard for the bad optics that result from his brother Bernard’s appointment to a key post at the NYPD and from supporter Phil Banks’ selection as top law-enforcement adviser despite his having been designated an unindicted co-conspirator in a graft case.

No shock or broken promises there, either. To have sweeping say over patronage, appointments, and promotions in the department is something ex-cop Adams could only have dreamed of decades ago when he led a Black officers' organization focused on those matters.

Transparently favoring one interest group over another is at least a form of transparency. This is how our partisan politicians seem to roll these days: Perform for the base, and hope the rest falls into place.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.

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