Congressional Candidates for NY’s 22nd District Face Off

The three candidates for the open congressional seat in New York’s 22nd district met at Colgate for the third and final congressional debate.

Annie McDonough

Colgate hosted the third and final head-to-head debate between the three candidates running for election to New York’s 22nd congressional district  on Thursday, October 20. The candidates, Republican Claudia Tenney ’83, Democrat Kim Myers and Independent Martin Babinec, are competing for the seat of departing Republican Congressman Richard Hanna.

Throughout the night, each of the candidates touted their record of job creation in Upstate New York, but the overtones of the presidential debate three nights earlier and the looming general election turned the discussion to national security, social issues and bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.

The event drew a large crowd to Colgate Memorial Chapel, which filled with members of the Hamilton and Colgate communities, as well as constituents from other parts of the district.

First-year Caroline Barrett, who will be voting in the 22nd district, said she was curious to hear what the candidates had to say, though she remains undecided about which candidate she will be voting for after the debate.

“Kim Myers is actually from the town that I’m from, so I was just interested [in attending the debate],” Barrett said.

In response to the economy, Tenney, an Assembly member in the 101st district, vowed to reduce taxes and regulations for small businesses in Upstate New York in order to allow the private sector to start to have an effect and grow jobs. 

Babinec, a businessman, also promised lower taxes and reduced regulations, along with an intention to focus on building businesses from within the state. 

“As much as our government says that we need to attract businesses to come in to Upstate New York, I fundamentally disagree with that premise,” Babinec said, citing his experience as founder of the nonprofit Upstate Venture Connect, which supports local entrepreneurs.

Myers, who currently serves as a Broome County legislator, said she would focus on building better

infrastructure and education, as well as securing access to credit in order to help grow small businesses throughout the district.

Senior Lindsay Wasserman said jobs were an important issue to her as a student. Though she does not live or vote in the 22nd district, she attended the debate to hear the candidates discuss the issues.

“I think it’s cool that Colgate, as a small liberal arts college, can host an event as important as this,” Wasserman said.

The moderators’ questions quickly turned to national security concerns, and each of the candidates offered responses and stances that addressed immigration and cyber security.

Babinec and Tenney both advocated for “extreme vetting” of immigrants coming from countries infiltrated by terrorist groups. Tenney also cited Utica’s large Bosnian refugee population, saying that refugees need to be protected but immigrants who enter the country illegally should be sent back and made to comply with immigration laws.

Myers focused on the necessity of cyber security and addressing homegrown terrorism, proposing more monitoring of radicalization on the internet in general. She also took a firm stance when asked about a proposed number of Syrian refugees to allow to enter the country.

“To turn our back on families that are fleeing war-torn, horrific conditions, in literally inflatable rafts and little floaties on their children – to say that they shouldn’t be allowed in our country because we have a particular limit that we’re going to allow – I think it’s not who we are as a country; it’s not who we have ever been as a country,” Myers said.

Tenney advocated working with Middle Eastern allies to create safe humanitarian refuges abroad for people fleeing war zones, until the right kind of vetting system is in place in the United States.

Hallie Burke, a first-year at Colgate who will be voting in the 22nd district, said civil rights issues are most important to winning her vote.

“I’d say social issues like marriage equality and pro-choice endeavors are really important to me, so I’m definitely socially democratic and liberal,” Burke said. “I’m definitely voting for Kim Myers because I thought she had the best policies.”

In a lightning round period, where the candidates were asked to answer rapid-fire questions in only a few words, the moderators asked which phrase they would choose between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.”

Tenney and Babinec both answered “All Lives Matter,” while Myers justified her choice of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

“‘Black Lives Matter’ means something different than ‘All Lives Matter,’” Myers said.

While Babinec initially disagreed with Myers, he said after the debate that he regretted his answer.

“There is an observation that was made tonight that I will acknowledge,” Babinec said. “The term ‘All Lives Matter’ grates hard on the ears of our African-American community, which I understand and I appreciate. I regret that I answered that question in exactly that manner.”

Discussion about social issues continued as the moderators shifted focus to questions about rape culture on college campuses and in America, especially in light of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments about sexual assault and “grabbing” women.

Myers emphasized the importance of enforcing sexual assault laws everywhere, as well as addressing rape culture at the national level.

“I don’t think a college campus is a haven that doesn’t have to comply with [sexual assault laws],” Myers said. “Certainly on a national stage, where we have a candidate bragging and appealing that those actions are not inappropriate, it’s very concerning to me.”

Tenney acknowledged rape culture as a national problem, but said it was never an issue for her as a student at Colgate.

“I am a graduate of Colgate University, and in the eighties, when we had a lot of fraternities, never once did I ever feel threatened or concerned about my safety here in this lovely community,” Tenney said. “I think Colgate has good rules, as many of the colleges do around the nation.”

Babinec and Tenney echoed Myers’ concern at Trump’s remarks, though Tenney has stood strongly in her support of Trump throughout the campaign.

“The type of negative comments that we’ve heard in the presidential campaign I find were disgusting,” Tenney said. “And as a woman, I found them particularly egregious. But again, they are words, not actions.”

Again echoing one of the theme’s at the last presidential debate, each of the candidates were asked if they would accept the results of this election and the presidential election. Myers and Babinec both answered “yes” on both accounts.

“Did Al Gore accept the 2000 election? I don’t think so,” Tenney said while laughing, though she eventually agreed to accept the results on one condition. “Yes, as long as there’s no corruption.”

Each of the candidates made closing statements promising to cut through bipartisan ties and make progress in Washington. Tenney vowed to reach across the aisle, and Babinec said that as an independent, he would not be beholden to special interest groups or party bosses. Myers said party lines would not factor into her decisions in Congress, she would only be looking for good ideas, no matter where they came from.

According to a Sept. 29 Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll, Tenney is polling at 35 percent, while Myers and Babinec are at 30 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Each of the candidates acknowledged the “ugliness” of this year’s presidential election, but rising above the example set by the candidates at Monday’s presidential debate, Tenney, Myers and Babinec smiled and shook hands with one another before exiting the stage.