Provided by BU's College Democrats

New York State Senate Candidate Lea Webb fielded Binghamton University students’ questions this past Wednesday.

Lea Webb, the Democratic candidate for the 52nd district, was featured in a meet and greet held by BU’s College Democrats. The event was held in Lecture Hall 7, and students were invited to ask Webb questions in an open Q&A format.

Webb currently serves as a diversity education coordinator at BU’s division of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Webb began by discussing her start in politics at the age of 15, when she volunteered as a community organizer and worked on issues such as health care reform, affordable housing and racial and social justice. She explained her initial hesitation in running for office, primarily because of her status as a female minority candidate.

“What often impacts diverse candidates running for office are financial barriers and questions of electability,” Webb wrote in an email. “There is research that demonstrates that, although women make up the majority of the population, we are still underrepresented in elected office at every level. You have to raise significant funds in order to run for office, [and] in addition deal with implicit bias that often drives perceptions around ‘electability’. It is my hope that, with my campaign, that it will encourage other community leaders to not only run for office but also become more involved with government.”

Webb said the continued support of Binghamton community leaders is what eventually convinced her to run in the election. In 2007, Webb became the first African-American and youngest person ever to be elected to the Binghamton City Council. Since then, Webb has led initiatives to ban fracking in the City of Binghamton, worked with nonprofit organizations to establish more housing and supported the passage of the New York Health Act, among other efforts.

One frequent query at the Q&A session was how Webb planned to engage with the Binghamton community and encourage them to vote for progressive issues. Webb explained that having conversations with people, and meeting them where they are, is what can gain support in working toward solutions that help everyone.

“When you see such efforts from people in certain positions of power to repeal and push back rights, they are hoping you stay home,” Webb said. “They are hoping you feel apathetic and powerless in your situation — but you’re not.”

Policies that Webb planned to enact also came up, and how they would affect BU students. Many students expressed concern regarding access to health care, housing and work in the Binghamton area.

Webb explained that many of the policies she prioritizes have the ability to directly impact the welfare of students, such as affordability, job access and environmental justice. She also stated that New York state needs to strengthen its protections for reproductive rights. In addition, Webb said that while reproductive health care is an essential health care service for all, it is an issue that especially impacts marginalized communities.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York state constitution currently only protects an individual from religious and racial discrimination. The New York State Equality Amendment aims to prevent any discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, ethnicity, age, national origin, pregnancy and sex. The amendment would also prevent any government involvement in an individual’s reproductive health care autonomy.

Students that attended the meeting expressed agreement with the positions and stances Webb took on many issues. Nadia Nabeel, a freshman double-majoring in economics and philosophy, politics and law, said she particularly agreed with Webb’s stances on community engagement.

“I think it is very interesting that she is actually part of the community,” Nabeel said. “And that she grew up here so she has an invested stake in what happens here.”

When Webb was a health care organizer at Citizen Action, she successfully gained support for the Affordable Care Act, expanded health care insurance. In addition, Webb played a large role in passing equal pay legislation in Binghamton.

Leo Katzman, a member of BU’s College Democrats and an undeclared sophomore, wanted to hear from Webb to become better informed on his positions. With the upcoming election in November, he said it was necessary for all people to educate themselves on the various candidates.

“When she talked about the relationship between the students and the University, and its economic influence and then the residents of the area when balancing that, that’s especially important,” Katzman said.

Chance Fiorisi, president of BU’s College Democrats and a sophomore majoring in political science, expressed hope that people will be inspired to vote for Webb due to her progressive platform.

“Lea Webb has been an astounding and historical figure in the Binghamton community,” Fiorsi said. “I’m hoping her progressive run will inspire a lot of students to get involved and start to give back to the community. For those who think that voting is nothing, let the last few months be a reminder that voting means literally everything.”