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Facing off on Facebook

Criminal justice reform is shaping up to be

Criminal justice reform is shaping up to be a key issue in the race for Nassau County executive between Republican Bruce Blakeman, left, and Democratic incumbent Laura Curran. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Daily Point

Nassau rivals spar on crime, cops

For a taste of Nassau County’s election season flavors, take a look at some dueling Facebook ads.

Republican candidate for county executive Bruce Blakeman is running ads citing an increase in gunshots fired in Nassau and tying his opponent, incumbent County Executive Laura Curran, to Todd Kaminsky, who is running for district attorney on the Democratic ticket.

"Felons — freed by Laura Curran’s runningmate for District Attorney — are part of the problem," the ad said. "And Curran, she’s open to defunding the police and even tried evicting Federal agents from their offices at the county jail."

The ad goes on to blame Democrats for what the GOP hopeful calls a public safety crisis, criticizing the party for "eliminating bail, loosening parole and allowing [career criminals] free rein in our communities."

It’s just one example of what is shaping up to be a key issue for New York Republicans this campaign season — criminal justice reform. GOP candidates are once again saying Democrats went too far with bail and other reforms. Democrats say the GOP is fear mongering and misrepresenting or at least exaggerating their positions.

Take this ad featuring Curran’s 2019 proposal to move federal immigration agents from the grounds of Nassau’s jail. The change didn’t go through and the agents remain, according to Curran’s campaign.

And to support the idea that Curran is "open to defunding the police," Blakeman sent The Point a five-second clip of the county executive at a 2020 news conference suggesting she’s not opposed to the concept of defunding though later in the appearance she says she was "misheard" and added "I am opposed to defunding the police" and went on to discuss investments made in policing.

Regarding the district attorney race, bail reforms will surely continue to be a talking point, with Kaminsky certain to point out that he supported some scaling back of the changes in 2020.

Democrats are making some other moves to combat the criminal justice attack lines ahead of November. See the Nassau County Young Democrats, who this month ran an ad saying they were "pretty sick of hearing extremist Bruce Blakeman for Nassau County Executive talk about" gunshots being up.

The text runs above a picture of Blakeman himself aiming a heavy-duty weapon.

Blakeman said the picture was from a legal shooting range with his Marine stepson "who was showing me various weapons and he took a photo," Blakeman told The Point. "That’s all."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Give them a Lever to move the world...

With Facebook at the center of a renewed national debate about misinformation and social media power, New York political junkies might have noticed a familiar name in the news: Dani Lever, former communications director for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Lever, who left Cuomo’s office last year, now works in communications for the social media giant, and has recently been called into high profile service in defense of her employer.

Responding to allegations about clashes at the top of Facebook from a new book "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination," Lever has been blunt: "This book tells a false narrative based on selective interviews, many from disgruntled individuals, and cherry-picked facts," she said in one statement. "The fault lines that the authors depict between Mark and Sheryl and the people who work with them do not exist."

And after President Joe Biden last week accused Facebook of "killing people" with the spread of coronavirus vaccine misinformation, Lever issued a forceful statement.

"We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts," she said to ABC News, adding a defiant Cuomo-esque ending. "The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period."

Lever’s career in the political world included stints for former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Clinton Foundation, and President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, as detailed by her LinkedIn page. Jobs like that often prize strenuous defenses of the office, something that both Cuomo and Mark Zuckerberg have needed in recent months.

"Dani is a world-class professional who never avoids the tough challenges and she was always going to be a success at everything she does," former colleague and current Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in an email to The Point. "While she is deeply missed in the chamber, I can't express how proud I am of her."

For her part, Lever declined to comment after trying — in true flack fashion — to kill this brief newsletter item.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

COVID games

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Final Point

Five years can be a lifetime

When former president Donald Trump stepped up to the podium in Cleveland five years ago tonight to accept the GOP nomination, few knew what to expect. But the journalists and political junkies who had seen late-leaking excerpts of the "American carnage" speech Trump was about to deliver knew the nation was headed into an unprecedented race.

And today, just looking back at the speakers from that night is an opportunity for reflection.

Given the current headlines, the name that jumps out of the speaker list from that night is certainly Trump pal and businessman Thomas Barrack, who was charged this week with the federal crime of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates. But that’s not the only speaker from that evening whose name evokes wild images.

Early in the evening, attendees heard from Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned from that job in 2020 after he and his wife’s sexual interactions with a Miami pool boy and compromising pictures of Falwell with another woman came out.

Earlier on the roster was former Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who benefited hugely from Trump’s election when the president pardoned Arpaio on a criminal contempt of court conviction.

Then-Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn spoke for Trump that night, and has never faltered in her support. That loyalty paid off in red Tennessee, and she is now a U.S. senator.

Barrack introduced Ivanka Trump who introduced her dad. In accepting the nomination, Trump introduced the dark vision of a nation besieged by crime, illegal immigration and violence that only he could confront.

Seemingly everything about Trump’s presidency was a shocker, including his win. But one of the first surprises was the speech five years ago that told the nation nothing to follow would be business as usual.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

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