For Hochul, shooting in Buffalo is a tragedy for his hometown

Hours after an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, Governor Kathy Hochul called a press conference a few blocks away.

She mourned the tight-knit community and the lives shattered by the cruelty of white supremacy. She spoke about the danger of hate circulating online. And she spoke knowingly about the neighborhood and the streets she’d traveled — and how it was all so close to home.

Ms Hochul grew up in suburban Buffalo and lives with her husband in the city’s downtown area, less than four miles from the East Side, the predominantly black neighborhood where a white gunman orchestrated one of the massacres most murderous racists in recent memory.

“It’s personal,” Ms. Hochul said a day later at True Bethel Baptist Church, a black church a mile from the scene of the shooting. “You hurt our family.”

In recent days, Ms Hochul has called out tech companies she says are not doing enough to stop the spread of online hate that motivated the shooter, and slammed Washington for its failure to enforce what it said should be common sense gun control laws. . She continued to hammer home those points on Tuesday, as she appeared with President Biden during his visit to Buffalo, a post-industrial city in western New York on the shores of Lake Erie.

On Wednesday, Ms. Hochul unveiled a series of measures aimed at combating domestic terrorism and strengthening the state’s already strict gun laws, including a red flag provision that allows judges to ban people considered a threat to themselves or others to possess weapons. .

Six weeks away from the Democratic primary for governor and Ms. Hochul’s bid for her first full term, the shooting offered the governor both an opportunity to engage with voters at a time of crisis and a challenge to demonstrate whether she is up to it. task.

Indeed, the shooting, which law enforcement officials say was motivated by a white supremacist ideology stoked by some right-wing factions in the country, quickly took on political overtones in the growing race for the top job. governor of New York, where gun violence has become central. publish.

One of Ms. Hochul’s main opponents, Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi, was in Buffalo when the shooting happened. He immediately used the event as a political cudgel, proclaiming on Twitter, “Hochul refuses to make fighting crime a priority. I’m going.”

Some Democrats pushed back against Mr. Suozzi’s remarks, calling them inappropriate policies amid a tragic loss of life. But Mr. Suozzi, a centrist Democrat from Long Island, continued on Wednesday to question Ms. Hochul’s gun control credentials, noting her vote as a congressman to allow people with a concealed carry license to carry weapons across state lines and a previous endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

“It’s not leadership,” said Mr. Suozzi, who noted that he had raised concerns about the implementation of the so-called red flag law in a crime control plan that he unveiled in January. “It’s hypocritical and it does nothing to protect New Yorkers from this kind of tragedy happening again.”

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Suffolk County who is running to be his party’s nominee for governor, released a statement over the weekend that pushed for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the state. of New York, which was declared unconstitutional nearly two decades ago.

“Those who commit deadly hate crimes, acts of terrorism and other extreme violence must be brought to justice, and in some of these cases the only form of appropriate justice is the death penalty,” Mr Zeldin said. , who visited the filming location. on Monday to pay tribute to those killed, but did not answer questions from reporters and avoided overtly political remarks.

But for Ms. Hochul, the shooting has a more obvious resonance.

“I think the Governor feels it on a whole new level, because she’s been through the Tops, if not been in the Tops,” said Darius G. Pridgen, pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church.

In the days following the shooting, the governor visited churches and appeared on television and radio, giving interviews to nearly a dozen outlets, from MSNBC and CNN to the long-running radio show. Buffalo morning show, “Janet & Nick in the Morning”.

She highlighted the state’s existing gun safety laws, taking the opportunity to highlight actions she’s already taken as governor, such as an interstate task force she convened. last year to combat the illegal flow of arms.

And she denounced the killings as “white supremacist acts of terrorism”, calling on white Americans to take a stand against racism.

“To say she takes this personally is to say the least,” said Jeremy Zellner, chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party.

The governor has lived with her husband in a downtown waterfront condo in the city since 2013, shortly after losing her seat in Congress – although she has often split her time between Albany and New York since that she became governor in August.

Ms. Hochul got her start in politics as a member of the city council of Hamburg, a suburban town just south of Buffalo that is predominantly white. Although she briefly represented the East Side as Erie County Clerk, the House district from which she was elected in 2011 was largely rural and suburban and did not include Buffalo.

She then helped promote economic development projects and job training programs for the city as lieutenant governor under former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. As governor, she visited the East Side as recently as March to promote the construction of new affordable housing.

One from Mrs. Hochul top priorities for the region involves tackling racial and economic inequalities that have been exacerbated by a stretch of freeway that has been built across the East Side. Ms Hochul is spearheading a plan to reconnect neighborhoods divided by the Kensington Freeway more than 60 years ago, say last month that there was $1 billion available in federal and state funds for a project to potentially cover the highway, or part of it.

“She’s from the suburbs, but by no means is she a stranger to this part of town,” said State Sen. Sean Ryan, a Democrat who represents parts of the city’s West Side. “She’s a known commodity in terms of on-court boots at neighborhood centers.”

The mass shooting came as the New York governor’s primary, scheduled for June 28, looms on the horizon.

Ms. Hochul has amassed a gargantuan $20 million war chest and a huge advantage in the polls, but her campaign has failed in recent weeks, battered by the arrest of her lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, on corruption charges. , and criticism of a deal she made to subsidize the construction of a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills with taxpayer money.

Like many Democrats across the country, Ms. Hochul had recently turned her attention to the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, radically reshaping the national landscape of women’s health care. Ms. Hochul began talking more extensively about making New York a haven for reproductive rights, promising to enshrine abortion rights in state law and use her executive power to create a fund of 35 million dollars to support abortion providers.

His campaign aired a TV ad this week that underscored his commitment to the issue, even as the aftermath of the shooting topped most of his public agenda.

While unveiling gun safety measures in her Manhattan office on Wednesday, Hochul described white nationalism and homegrown terrorism as the most serious threat facing the nation.

“The last few days have been some of the hardest of my life,” she said. “Every New Yorker’s heart has been broken in two, especially Buffalonians.”

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