Midterm season has begun in New York’s 22nd Congressional District.

Representative Claudia Tenney launched her re-election campaign to represent the district at the Holiday Inn in Downtown Binghamton on Sunday afternoon. Her challenger, State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica, launched his campaign in front of the Broome County Courthouse roughly nine months before in July, 2017.

This year’s midterm election cycle is expected to be particularly tense, as Democrats fight to gain seats in the House of Representatives and Senate, and Republicans attempt to maintain their majorities. The 22nd Congressional District, which encompasses much of central New York, including Binghamton and Utica, has already received national attention following Tenney’s comments in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Tenney told Albany radio host Fred Dicker that many people who commit the mass murders are Democrats. Many other elected officials quickly denounced her remarks, including Brindisi and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This toxic rhetoric is shameful and a new low even for Ms. Tenney,” Brindisi tweeted. “Inserting politics into a national tragedy is beyond the pale & disgusting. She should apologize now to spare our region any more national embarrassment.”

In response to Tenney’s statements, 50 protesters stood outside her campaign event.

Brian Garcia, a junior double-majoring in economics and history, said he believes that her response to the Parkland shooting demonstrates her lack of connection with the community.

“Tenney has consistently shown she’s out of touch with our community,” Garcia said. “She voted to take health care away from our vulnerable neighbors, voted to make student loans harder to pay back and doesn’t even hold town halls. She’s just not a choice we can afford. Her response to the Parkland shooting that many of these mass shooters end up being Democrats shows a stunning lack of maturity and an unwillingness to address this serious issue with sensible policy.”

Tenney did not address these concerns in her campaign speech. Instead, she focused on her accomplishments in supporting tax cuts, resources for tackling the opioid crisis and, in her own words, fighting against the “D.C. swamp” and the “political elite” in Albany. Tenney said she hopes to restore manufacturing jobs and continue working with farmers in the region.

“It is very exciting and we are really excited to carry a strong campaign going into 2018 as we move out, but I was very encouraged by the people here, who very much supported the tax cuts, supporting rolling back of regulations, limited government, freedom, continuing the agenda, that the President has brought to the capital,” Tenney said.

Tenney has also been criticized in the past for a lack of town hall meetings. Gilda Ward, town councilwoman for Guilford, New York, and a supporter of Tenney, said this is due to a number of threats made against her.

“She said that it’s not even about the safety for herself, but the safety of everyone at these town hall meetings,” Ward said. “That’s the reason why she did not have as many town hall meetings as she would have liked to have.”

Christopher DeMarco, political director for BU College Republicans and a junior majoring in political science, said he supports Tenney because she is consistently conservative in her policy interests and background.

“For me personally, values and culture matter a lot, and Tenney has them,” DeMarco said. “Her son is active-duty military, meaning that any national security decision she makes directly affects her. Her multigenerational family business is a great example of the American dream. She understands what’s it’s all about — it’s about what you can build yourself, not what the government can give you.”

Brindisi said his campaign will be based on investing in the local economy, education and infrastructure.

“I decided to run for Congress because Washington needs more independent voices who are interested in getting things accomplished,” Brindisi said. “Currently, the extremes on both sides are driving the conversation and I believe bipartisanship is the key to finding solutions that can make a difference for our families and community. I also believe in an economy that rewards hard work. We need to create private-sector jobs, to invest in our local economy with tax breaks for the working- and middle-class people, not tax cuts for Wall Street billionaires paid for on the backs of future generations. We must invest in education and infrastructure to attract new businesses, while using apprenticeship programs to train those who will rebuild our manufacturing base and pay them living wages.”

The primary election will take place on June 26 and the general election on Nov. 6.