President Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union (SOTU) address to an audience including Rep. Marc Molinaro and Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar on March 7.

Akshar, along with Columbia County Sheriff Donald Krapf, were Molinaro’s guests as recognition for their service within New York’s 19th congressional district, which Molinaro represents. Molinaro and the two sheriffs witnessed President Biden’s speech where he deeply criticized his “predecessor,” — former President Donald Trump, as well as the Republican response to Biden’s address, delivered by Alabama Senator Katie Britt. Both Biden and Trump secured their respective parties’ nomination this week, setting the stage for a rematch.

“These two serve counties on the opposite ends of New York’s 19th Congressional District, but are connected in their strong commitment to taking a holistic approach to policing,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Both have prioritized providing tough consequences for violent offenders and swift justice for victims, while implementing strong community-policing strategy strategies and connecting those in-need to mental health and substance use treatment. By having [Akshar] and [Krapf] as my guests, I hope to draw attention to the serious public safety challenges our communities face and underscore the importance of doing more to support our men and women in law enforcement.”

Akshar, who was previously a New York State Senator representing the 52nd district — including Broome County — from 2015-2022, has held the Broome County Sheriff position since January 2023. Krapf took office as Columbia County Sheriff in 2022, having served the Columbia County Sheriff’s office since 1998. Molinaro is running for reelection in November, his presumptive opponent being Josh Riley, whom he defeated in the November 2022 election.

“It was an absolute honor to join Congressman Molinaro as a representative of law enforcement and our Broome County community at this year’s State of the Union address,” Akshar said in a statement. “Every day, the dedicated men and women of law enforcement across our nation leave their homes and families to put their lives on the line, protecting and serving their communities amid unprecedented challenges and under extraordinary circumstances. Broome County recognizes the need to work together to build a stronger, safer community and that message rings just as true in our nation’s capital.”

In his address, Biden took multiple swings at his “predecessor,” including Trump’s stance on Russia and leader Vladimir Putin as well as his involvement in the Jan. 6 capitol riots. Biden also addressed major voter concerns like the U.S.-Mexico border, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the economy.

The president faced a notably hostile Republican audience, including an exchange over the border initiated by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene who called out Biden during his address over the recent death of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley — who was reportedly killed by an undocumented migrant. Biden held up a button with Riley’s name on it in response, then proceeded to ask Republicans to reconsider their opposition to the bipartisan immigration bill previously passed by the Senate.

The Republican rebuttal followed, with Senator Britt giving a televised speech from her kitchen in Montgomery, Alabama. Britt said she and her family were worried about the country’s direction, calling Biden “out of touch” while claiming he had “inherited the most secure border of all time” from Trump. Britt then expressed her belief that the “American Dream” had become endangered in recent years, scrutinizing the Biden Administration and its actions at the southern border.

Greg Robinson, professor and chair of the Binghamton University’s political science department, emphasized the heavy partisan environment at the SOTU.

“This year’s State of the Union was a raucous affair, and that has been the case for 15 or 20 years now,” Robinson wrote in an email. “It’s a contrast with previous eras, when a State of the Union address was a lot more solemn and had applause lines that could get both sides of the aisle to stand and give an ovation. Now, these are much more partisan affairs, with shouting and heckling like you would see if you watched Prime Minister’s Questions in the British Parliament. As for the Republican response, about all I can say is that Senator Britt’s performance was surreal. These responses are almost always thankless tasks, and the politicians who deliver them often end up as cautionary tales. I don’t know how any politician is convinced to do them.”