In 2018, Anthony Brindisi became the third Democrat to represent New York’s 22nd congressional district in the last 119 years, representing an area spanning from Utica to the Pennsylvania border, including Binghamton.
But Brindisi only won NY-22 by approximately 4,800 votes, and given this razor-thin margin, he cannot count on an easy reelection in a traditionally red district. Records from the 2018 midterm election show that much of the Binghamton area voted for Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney. On the other hand, on-campus voters largely voted blue, and Brindisi was significantly boosted by a huge increase in student voters from the previous midterm election in 2014.
It’s unclear if Brindisi can count on a similar turnout in the upcoming 2020 election, but it’s possible that the presidential election will mean even greater student participation. That, however, doesn’t guarantee a second term for Brindisi, given student turnover and his lukewarm reception in the past year.
With Hamilton College, Colgate University, Utica College and the largest of the bunch, Binghamton University, being part of NY-22, Brindisi has a sizable student constituency that’s more likely to not vote at all than vote against him. If he has any intention of winning by a similar margin in 2020, Brindisi must work to ensure that he doesn’t lose student interest before his name appears on the ballot again. Additionally, the Republican field has grown beyond Tenney, potentially signifying that many feel that Brindisi’s hard-fought seat is up for grabs. Worse yet for his reelection chances, among the three Republicans seeking a primary win is similarly moderate and well-experienced Republican contender, District Attorney Steve Cornwell.
Brindisi has made an effort to engage with BU’s student body both before and after his election by coming to campus to talk to his college constituents. Additionally, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on polling and tracks the voting record of elected officials, Brindisi has voted in line with President Donald Trump about 8 percent of the time. Tenney, who is running to regain her seat in 2020, voted in agreement with President Trump 96 percent of the time during her term in office. While this stark difference might suggest that Brindisi is more aligned with the majority of BU students’ views, his voting record has done little to incentivize students to return to the polls. Brindisi has voted in favor of multiple pro-environment bills and against Trump’s most recent budget plan, but voted against raising the federal minimum wage to $15 — an issue that many students care about.
Furthermore, he was placed on committees to assist with legislation regarding agriculture and veterans’ affairs. While his work there has been solid, it’s unlikely that his actions on those committees will largely influence the student vote. Most importantly, Brindisi has voted against measures that would expand gun control policies. His voting record is worth further scrutiny as Binghamton was subject to a mass shooting only a decade ago, where a gunman shot and killed 13 people at the American Civic Association in Downtown Binghamton. Additionally, spring 2018 survey results from Generation Vote’s BU chapter determined that approximately 85 percent of BU students believe that gun violence is one of the biggest issues facing the nation. While Claudia Tenney has a much worse track record on gun control measures and made the wildly inaccurate, inappropriate and unsubstantiated claim that most mass shooters are Democrats, Brindisi’s failure to do more to prevent gun violence doesn’t fare him well.
Brindisi isn’t the only Democrat representing a traditionally red district, but he is unusually apprehensive in taking a definitive stance on the impeachment inquiry against Trump. He has thus far remained on the fence, even while other Democratic House members from typically red districts, like Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) and Max Rose (D-NY), have offered hard stances in favor of or against the proceedings. This has arguably been his poorest decision as an elected representative so far, as taking the middle ground on such a polarizing issue has only served to alienate both his conservative and liberal constituents looking for strong answers. His middle-of-the-ground response to the inquiry has struck a nerve, with the most popular Google query for his name being “Brindisi impeachment.” Later today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will force wavering Democrats like Brindisi to provide a yes or no answer to the impeachment proceedings, potentially altering the course of his future political career in NY-22.
All things considered, Brindisi needs to navigate the remainder of his term with a greater consideration for the student voters that made his shot-in-the-dark campaign more likely than impossible. It isn’t enough to dance the line between conservative and liberal and still earn the votes of such a divided constituency. When push comes to shove, it may very well be the student body that again determines Brindisi’s fate come November 2020.