For the first time in nearly two decades, New York Republicans held their statewide nominating convention in Broome County. Party leaders arrived Thursday at the Doubletree by Hilton on Water Street in Downtown Binghamton.

A vast majority of delegates voted to nominate Mike Sapraicone, a former New York Police Department detective, as the party’s candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the seat she has held since 2009. Following Sapraicone’s victory, a fundraising luncheon was held for Rep. Marc Molinaro’s reelection bid, where the incumbent representative was joined by House Speaker Mike Johnson, the most powerful elected Republican in Washington.

“Upstate New York knows what it’s like to be flown over,” Molinaro said. “Presidential candidates don’t come here, governors rarely stop by [and] state policy generally is downstate-oriented […] What [Johnson in Binghamton] means is the speaker lived up to his commitment to me, which was my district and the people I represent would have a seat at the table and their voice heard. He heard from folks in the community, he heard from law enforcement and he heard from me that we’ve got to do more to ensure that the policies that are adopted in Washington and Albany provide real meaningful relief and opportunity for the people of upstate New York.”

GOP leaders held the convention to choose a preferred candidate for the Senate seat, the only statewide race in 2024. If two or more candidates garnered over 25 percent of the vote, a primary election would have been triggered in June. Sapriacone won about 85 percent of the delegates, bypassing a contested primary, though his opponents can petition to be included on a June ballot.

Benji Federman, the Broome County GOP chairman, opened the event, welcoming the delegates to Broome County. Alexandria Chun, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, then emphasized the importance of respectful discourse between both sides of the political spectrum, especially among younger people.

“[The convention being in Binghamton] shows the importance of Broome County in statewide politics,” Federman said. “Over a hundred Republicans from around the state are coming to Binghamton [to nominate a U.S. Senate candidate] who is going to beat [Gillibrand]. We see poll after poll that shows that New York residents think that we’re moving in the wrong direction in our state and country. The way that we start to improve the trend is by electing a Republican senator who is going to go to Washington and [focus] on the issues that matter to Broome County residents and New York state residents.”

Sapraicone’s two competitors in the Senate race addressed the crowd during the convention. Cara Castronuova spoke about her experience working for former President Donald Trump and advocating for accused Capitol rioters. Josh Eisen, an unsuccessful candidate for the 17th Congressional District, then emphasized the importance of upholding Republican values. Sapraicone spoke last, sharing the importance of unifying Republicans to prevent “further chaos.”

“What’s really important now is to keep this party strong and united,” Sapraicone said in a preliminary statement after his victory. “Whatever it takes to unite, because if we’re going to beat the Democrats come November and beat [Gillibrand], we need to be together. We have the issues on our side. These are issues for Americans [and] New Yorkers […] I have a lot of energy, and we’re gonna get out there and meet everybody.”

After the contest, delegates and donors met in the adjoining room, where the luncheon for Molinaro’s reelection bid was held. Protestors gathered outside the hotel objecting to Johnson and Molinaro’s appearance in Binghamton, reaching its peak as a row of Binghamton police and black SUVs reached the hotel.

Once the luncheon concluded, Johnson and Molinaro visited the Broome County Sheriff’s office. Molinaro had asked the speaker to join him in meeting with local law enforcement officials to show appreciation. Fred Akshar, the Broome County sheriff, and newly-elected District Attorney F. Paul Battisti were also present.

“We had a great opportunity to have the speaker meet with some folks in law enforcement,” Molinaro said. “What I know of Speaker Johnson, and what we’re committed to both here at home and in Washington is to confront the need to support law enforcement and to confront the challenges facing public safety. That means addressing border security and it means addressing some of the policies here in New York [state] that have made it more difficult to do the work that [law enforcement] do everyday. The speaker was generous in extending our appreciation, but also understands that we have to deliver for law enforcement as well.”