Whether or not you vote Tuesday will make the difference in one of the most tightly contested national congressional races in the country and ultimately determine the political course of our country. Regardless of your party affiliation, the polarizing character of incumbent Claudia Tenney is not representative of someone fit for office. It’s not often that our vote holds so much weight, especially since many of us come from New York City, which consistently votes for Democrats. I urge you to grab this opportunity to make change; it would be disgraceful if only the 300 students who voted on campus last year turn up.
Far-right Republican Tenney is the incumbent in the race. You may have seen her discussed on a late-night TV show, as she consistently makes national media attention for controversial comments. For example, following the devastating Parkland shooting, she said, “So many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats.” She also criticized Democrats as “un-American” for not applauding during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address. These are just two of many contentious comments she has made. In a political environment that is dangerously polarized, we do not need a Democrat-hating congresswoman in office to continue adding fuel to the fire.
Democrats are working to regain control of the House and will need to flip 23 seats to do so. Currently, 29 Republican-held districts are considered toss-ups, and the 22nd congressional seat (Binghamton’s district) is ranked as one of the six most important seats to take, according to CNN. Our district will test Democrats’ ability to win in Trump’s hot ground. While Hillary Clinton won New York by a margin of 22.5 points in 2016, Trump won our district by 15.3 points. The fact that this race is so close, even with Trump having won the district, is especially shocking since around 90 percent of House members are re-elected. Tenney’s inability to have a decisive lead in the race is proof of her inadequacy as a leader.
Not surprisingly, political groups have put in a staggering 13.4 million dollars into influencing voters in the region, which is the highest in New York and seventh in the nation. Leaders of the Republican Party, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, visited Binghamton earlier this month to lend Tenney a hand. Even Trump visited the 22nd congressional district in August to rally support for Tenney. Centrist Democrat Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is the candidate challenging Tenney. He has promised to focus additional resources on the Binghamton area of the district, which is often neglected.
In a debate with Tenney last Thursday, Brindisi talked about the issue of student loan debt and scolded Congress for not doing enough. ”[Congress] can allow for refinancing of federal loans […] offer more Pell Grants […] they can set the interests rates lower.” He also criticized Tenney’s effort to battle the opioid crisis, calling out Tenney for “taking money from big drug companies, turning a blind eye to this epidemic for many years.” Tenney attacked Brindisi on guns, saying, “I am very proud to have an A rating from the NRA. He has an F, because he doesn’t stand up for law-abiding gun owners.” Additionally on the issue of immigration, Raychel Renna, Tenney’s campaign manager, said that “Brindisi has a record in Albany of putting illegal immigration before our veterans and we can’t trust him to secure our borders.”
A recent poll shows Brindisi has an insignificant lead over Tenney, with Brindisi at 46 percent and Tenney at 45 percent. With such a marginal lead, this is not an election you can afford to sit out. Whatever reasons that may have stopped you from voting in the past need to be pushed aside on Tuesday. We spend several years in Binghamton and are only harming our interests by not voting. Don’t waste your vote; make your voice heard.
Michael Harel is a senior majoring in political science.