With less than two weeks remaining until the general election on Nov. 3, Binghamton University held a virtual student town hall with U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY).
The event, held on Oct. 20, was hosted by the BU College Democrats, Generation Vote, Students for Brindisi and the BU Young Democratic Socialists of America. Brindisi, the incumbent, is running against Republican former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, whom he unseated during the 2018 midterm elections. The town hall was held via Zoom, and Brindisi answered questions asked by students as the discussion focused on current issues facing America.
Brindisi explained the importance of having town hall meetings with students.
“[Tuesday’s] event [was] a great opportunity to talk with BU students about the issues that matter to them,” Brindisi said. “I’ve held town halls and meetings with students across the district in order to hear directly from them about issues they care about. Every issue is a student issue, but I often hear about crippling student debt, fears about our climate changing and an overall dissatisfaction with politics as usual in [Washington, D.C.].”
Brindisi related his efforts to these student issues and stressed the importance of voting.
“Whether it is working to bring down student debt, bringing jobs to our region or fighting to get money out of politics, I’ve worked hard on behalf of all students,” Brindisi wrote. “I want BU students to know I am fighting for them. Most importantly though, I want BU students to get out and vote. Each election our future is on the ballot, and young people can play a critical role in making it a brighter one.”
Throughout the town hall, Brindisi was asked questions on a range of topics, including supporting progressive policies, such as Medicare For All and free college, and his plan for supporting the BU student community.
In response to a question about how he is able to engage in civil dialogue among his colleagues, regardless of a political party, Brindisi emphasized the importance of working within a two-party system.
“I believe as an elected official, we have to try and unite people, not divide people,” Brindisi said. “We have a two-party system that I don’t think is going to go away, and I think we have to work together to move the country forward.”
Brindisi went on to explain how if he is reelected, he will continue to represent the people of his district, regardless of who they voted for.
“I don’t care if people voted for me or against me,” Brindisi said. “I’m going to work just as hard for you. I think we need that kind of attitude for all our elected officials.”
Jacques Rodenbach, president of the BU College Democrats and a senior majoring in accounting, agreed with Brindisi’s notion that college students are a crucial demographic to this year’s election.
“University students are such an important voting bloc, so I am very grateful that Congressman Brindisi took his time to talk with us and answer our questions,” Rodenbach wrote. “Congressman Brindisi showed that he truly cares about the needs and concerns of [BU] students, and I’m glad that our student body and the greater Binghamton area is represented by such a caring and compassionate member of Congress.”
Reagan Ingalls, social media coordinator for Students for Brindisi and a junior double-majoring in psychology and political science, said it was important to acknowledge the way Brindisi was able to respond to students’ questions while still effectively delivering a clear message to the audience.
“One of the big takeaways I have from this event is how [Brindisi] is able to effectively mediate polarizing topics, especially in a district as polarized and diverse as this one,” Ingalls wrote. “I saw that in the way he talked about Black Lives Matter and law enforcement and how he is able to support both. It is important to me that he can stand up for people by attending peaceful protests and supporting the community.”
Rochelle Cohen, a senior majoring in mathematics, appreciated the time Brindisi had taken to speak to college students in his district.
“Many of us are registered voters in [NY-22], and I love that Congressman Brindisi recognized that and took the time to hear concerns of the [BU] community and discuss the issues on the forefront of students’ minds,” Cohen said.
Cole Parker, a sophomore majoring in political science, was referred to the town hall by a friend. Parker had never attended one nor had he ever spoken to a member of Congress, but he said he enjoyed his first time at the event.
“I asked about the differences in representing a ‘swing district’ and the opportunities it could present in terms of legislating along moral lines versus party,” Parker said. “[Brindisi] replied by saying he definitely loves to follow his gut and pointed to his record as reflective of his ideals. Overall, I enjoyed the conversation that took place and definitely thought it was productive in terms of having our voices heard as students.”