A coalition of gun rights advocates and others are forming a new political movement to get what they say are disaffected and disenfranchised New Yorkers to vote.
The leaders of the new group include the state’s Rifle and Pistol Association, but the group’s president, Tom King, says it goes beyond the state’s recently enacted stiff new gun control legislation.
“It’s the whole spectrum of constitutional rights that are being infringed in New York state,” King said. “This is for the everyday person who feels disenfranchised.”
The coalition includes a land owners group that wants permission to lease their land to gas drilling companies for hydrofracking, an advocate for urban schools, and several conservative elected state lawmakers, including Rochester area Assemblyman Bill Nojay.
Nojay, a former talk radio host, says he’s disturbed by the swift passage of the gun laws, known as the NY SAFE Act, which he says illustrates a bigger problem in Albany. He says the top down leadership forced the complex bill through for a vote in just 45 minutes.
“Nobody had read it,” Nojay said. “That’s not a functioning legislature.”
Ayesha Kruetz, a Christian minister, is head of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York, a conservative African American group. She says her concerns include the deterioration of upstate’s inner cities and a failed education system. She says school board votes routinely attract just one-quarter to one-third of eligible voters.
“We have a 9 percent graduation rate for black males,” Kreutz said. “That’s a crime.”
The groups are modeling their efforts on the successful Democratic Party initiative of the 1990s known as Rock the Vote, which resulted in the registration of hundreds of thousands of young people.
They also planned a fundraiser, featuring country musicians, at the Altamont Fairgrounds near Albany at the end of the summer. Organizers say they chose the location because all of upstate New York's major highways intersect just a few miles from the site.
But Assemblyman Nojay says they aren’t going to promote any specific candidates for now, though they hope primary challengers will emerge to run against incumbents in the state legislature and all the way down to offices for local county sheriff and county clerk.
He says a primary may be needed to send a message to Democrats that the coalition disagrees with or Republicans who voted for the new gun laws.
While most Republicans in the Assembly voted against the gun control laws back in January, many GOP members of the Senate voted for it. A spokesman for Republicans in the Senate expressed concern that the new group would divide the Republican Party and help the “circus” he says the Democrats have created.