Past and present support for certain policies related to crime from left-wing Senate candidates could be a hindrance for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections as they seek to maintain control in Congress.
At least five Democrats running for Senate positions around the country — John Fetterman, Rep. Tim Ryan, Mandela Barnes, Cheri Beasley, and Sen. Raphael Warnock — have voiced support for an end to cash bail in America.
Crime, which has skyrocketed across several major American cities, has become an important concern for voters ahead of the November elections, with a poll last month indicating that a majority view Republicans as more equipped to handle the issue that has become more important to them than abortion.
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, who is seeking to defeat GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, once advocated for the elimination of cash bail ‘where it’s appropriate’ in an effort not to ‘criminalize poverty’ or ‘criminalize race.’
Fetterman’s remarks on the subject, offered during his campaign for lieutenant governor of the state, came during a conversation with the Delco Young Democast at the Pennsylvania Young Democrats Convention in August 2018.
‘We’re the party that doesn’t want to criminalize things like marijuana, small-scale marijuana possessions. We don’t want to criminalize. We want to get rid of cash bail where it’s appropriate, so we don’t criminalize poverty, we don’t criminalize race,’ Fetterman said.
Similarly, Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who is facing an election challenge from Republican JD Vance, once said he would support an end to cash bail nationwide and called the system ‘inherently unfair’ during a civil liberties forum when he was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
‘A good portion of people who are in jail right now are there pretrial. Right, people who have not been convicted, they retain their presumption of innocence. And we’re seeing states end cash bail state-by-state. Would you support that nationally?,’ asked Jeanne Hruska, former American Civil Liberties Union political director.
‘Yeah,’ Ryan replied in the September 2019 video. ‘The bail system is inherently unfair and what it does is it sets people down a spiral of not being able to go to work, not being able to take care of the kids, then you have adverse childhood experiences, and all the sudden a parent’s not at home. It’s not much different than what we talk about when we see these kids separated from their parents through the immigration situation.’
During his time as a state legislator, Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s current lieutenant governor, sponsored a 2016 state bill to end cash bail in Wisconsin, as well as a separate bill the same year that aimed to reduce penalties for people who jumped bail in certain circumstances.
The bail jumping bill sponsored by Barnes, who aims to defeat incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in the Badger State’s Senate race next month, would have lowered the penalty for violating pretrial release agreements.
The bill to end cash bail in Wisconsin, which did not make it out of committee, would have required a defendant to be released unless there was ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that he or she was a flight risk or a danger to society, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Barnes has also expressed support for allowing inmates to vote.
‘I’ve long championed restoration of voting rights immediately once someone has served their sentence, and I mean, honestly, even when someone is locked up,’ he said during a September 2018 podcast.
Democratic North Carolina Senate candidate Cheri Beasley has also voiced support for the elimination of cash bail and said during her time as a judge on the North Carolina Supreme Court that there is ‘great value in that premise’ of dismantling the criminal justice system and restructuring it.
As outlined on Beasley’s campaign website, the Tar Heel State Democrat, who will face off in the North Carolina Senate election against Republican Rep. Ted Budd on Nov. 8, supports ‘ending some mandatory minimums and ending the cash bail system particularly for nonviolent offenders.’
During her delivery of the State of the North Carolina Judiciary address in July 2019, Beasley touched on the subject and noted that the jailing of individuals who do not pay fines is ‘costly to the public’ and ‘doesn’t allow people to be out working.’
‘Counties big and small, urban and rural, are changing the way they handle criminal cases pre-trial, and they are beginning to see positive results,’ Beasley said. ‘Jails are less crowded, defendants are keeping their jobs, and families are staying in their homes. These communities are finding that this process does not compromise their safety, and it keeps their taxes low. All across our state, thousands of North Carolinians are jailed every year because they cannot afford to pay a fine.’
Asked by Fox News Digital about her support for cashless bail for nonviolent offenders, Beasley pivoted on the question and chose to go after Budd for not supporting law enforcement, saying he ‘has been all talk and no action.’
Incumbent Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has also announced his support for an end to cash bail in America on a few separate occasions.
In an October 2020 tweet, during his first campaign for the Senate, Warnock wrote, ‘No one should be stuck in jail just because they can’t afford cash bail. Poverty is not a crime, we must end cash bail.’
Similarly, at a 2018 press conference that was held during his tenure as a senior pastor for Ebenezer Baptist Church, Warnock insisted America is the ‘mass incarceration capital of the world’ and that when you ‘unnecessarily separate mamas and daddies from their children, block them from pursuing education or gainful employment while awaiting their day in court for low level offenses, you make the lives of working poor people more desperate and you actually create the conditions that lead to crime.’
‘It is a self-perpetuating cycle. So we gather this day to say, let’s fix it. Let’s end cash bail,’ Warnock said at the time.
According to a September survey produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, the economy (89%), education (77%) and inflation (76%) topped out the issues voters consider ‘highly important’ as midterms loom, but those issues were followed closely by crime at 69%, which beat out abortion at 62%.
Asked which political party they trust to do a better job handling key issues, respondents to the survey answered 52% in favor of the Republican Party when it comes to crime, compared to 38% for Democrats.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Will O’Grady, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, called for change and suggested that ‘nobody believes’ the ‘tough on crime talk’ from the Democratic candidates.
‘Nobody believes John Fetterman, Mandela Barnes, Cheri Beasley, Tim Ryan, and the phony tough-on-crime talk from Democrats,’ O’Grady said. ‘Lies cannot hide the fact Biden and his party want to release violent criminals, end cash bail, and are backed by radical defund-the-police advocates. With Democrats in charge, Americans are less safe, police officers are vilified, and criminals run with immunity. It is time for a change.’
Fox News’ Houston Keene and Adam Sabes contributed to this article.