The sign on the podium at the Thursday congressional kickoff event said, “Law Enforcement Supports Andrew Garbarino.” The location was just outside the Nassau County Police Department’s 7th Precinct on Merrick Road. And the first speaker said Garbarino should be elected because “he backs the blue.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to see the strategy in this closely watched 2nd Congressional District race, where the 35-year-old Bayport state assemblyman is looking to keep Pete King’s soon-to-be-vacated seat in Republican hands.
King, always a vocal backer of police, was on hand in Seaford to reliably talk about the importance of restoring “law and order” and his concerns about violence from New York City “spilling over” into Nassau County. Representatives of various Long Island law enforcement unions also delivered a similar message.
And Garbarino continued the trend.
“Now as you’ve seen in New York City, as you’ve seen in Portland, as you’ve seen in Wisconsin, our cops are under attack both by radical mobs and radical politicians,” he said at the pandemic-adjusted event, where the politicians and police union officials behind him nearly outnumbered the sparse crowd.
Garbarino was not quite as identified with policing issues during the primary as his GOP opponent and fellow Assemb. Mike LiPetri, who got some Fox News traction for a bill that would increase penalties for dousing officers. The policing focus is not as clean a hit against Democrats as usual here because Garbarino’s opponent, Jackie Gordon, has a background in military police as a member of the Army Reserve. But with the way the national winds are blowing, policing and urban protests seem to be the issue of the moment for Republicans in the general election. That's true from the top of the ticket down, as President Donald Trump's Twitter feed and law-and-order visit earlier this week to Kenosha, Wisconsin, show.
Garbarino ran with this theme with a New York angle. “Crime is through the roof,” he said, noting that he had heard of husbands who “don’t want to send their wives” in to work in the city due to safety concerns.
Some crimes like homicides have indeed climbed in New York City while others like rape and grand larceny have dropped, all still at much lower levels than previous decades.
But expect to hear more about disorder and crime upticks as November approaches, in addition to a can’t-miss-it-anywhere slogan that Garbarino returned to on Thursday: “I will never ever vote to defund the police.”
Mark Chiusano is a member of Newsday's editorial board.