By Bryan Goodman, Political Director
Photo: left to right: Lea Webb (D) and Rich David (R)
Ex-Binghamton Mayor Rich David and eight-year City Councilwoman Lea Webb are the two main party nominees for the New York State Senate’s 52nd district this November. Webb (D) and David (R) are both vying for a seat in New York State’s upper legislative chamber. The vacancy for this seat was created by the decision of incumbent Senator Fred Akshar’s (R) decision to run for Broome County Sheriff rather than seek reelection to the State Senate. I sat down with Webb for a virtual interview on October 12 to talk about all things public service and policy. Happy Medium reached out to the Rich David campaign twice via email and did not hear back, so all information about David’s policy positions has been acquired through local media articles and directly from the candidate’s social media platforms and campaign website.
Webb is a Binghamton native, raised by union-member parents, and an alum of Binghamton University’s neuroscience program. Webb’s community organizing originated around issue-based and electoral campaigns after graduating from college. Webb first ran for Binghamton City Council against the council president at the age of 26. She described her first bid for city council as a “very grassroots campaign” which saw a well above-average voter turnout in her district. With her victory, Webb became not only the youngest person ever elected to the Binghamton City Council, but also the first African-American elected to the council. Webb went on to serve on the council for eight years and now works at Binghamton University as an educator in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division.
Webb prides herself on her values—looking out for the community, understanding and questioning why things happen the way they do, and largely attributes these values to her parents and her upbringing. “Seeing and experiencing first-hand what happens when communities are rendered voiceless or not paid attention to, that sense of justice is something that…really cultivated it.” “Public service isn’t just a profession, it’s something that I’m personally committed to.”
Webb called the issue of food insecurity “pervasive” not just locally but nationally, and has learned that policy directly impacts food insecurity. She went on to discuss the messaging around food deserts and how many people working in the advocacy area of food justice now refer to this issue as “food apartheid.” This framing takes away the implicit understanding that food deserts are natural occurrences, when in reality they are the direct result of policy choices. She then linked this concept to the lack of access to affordable housing, transportation, business, and poor health outcomes, showing how all of these different socioeconomic determinants compound each other to make matters worse for individuals and families. She explained how walking even one mile in the City of Binghamton to buy groceries is extremely difficult and can be a deterrent to buying healthier food options due to the lack of adequate transportation to and from these resources. Taking an approach to revitalize blighted spaces and adjusting zoning laws, regulations to develop greenspaces, community gardens, and urban farms, are some of the steps in a comprehensive approach to address this issue, according to Webb.
When it comes to addressing predatory landlords who buy up properties and let them deteriorate, the city council passed a vacant property registration law to instill a system of more accountability for landlords sitting on vacant properties. As a smaller city, Binghamton is restricted when it comes to enforcing these policies and rooting out the cause of issues. Specifically, the level at which fines can be set by the city for these types of violations is severely limited. Webb emphasized the importance of comprehensive plans that understand community-specific issues. If the state government loosens some restrictions on enforcement mechanisms, it would allow for the city to take on absent landlords and actually enforce their vacant property registration law.
Reproductive healthcare access has been put under threat at the state level following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. With the possibility of a nationwide abortion ban if Republicans take back control of the federal government, I asked Webb how New York State can still provide protections to individuals seeking specific reproductive healthcare. Webb emphasized her support for an amendment to the New York State Constitution that would enshrine the right to access to proper reproductive healthcare. Webb says that having these protections in the State Constitution would insulate them from political uncertainty and the back and forth typical with such political disputes.
“Expanding resources for education on sexual heatlh, making sure we are a sanctuary state and that people are getting access to the medicines that they need… are a few things. Even with the Constitutional amendment, people still have to a.) Know what’s happening; and b.) Vote for it.”Lea Web (D)
Webb suggests that simply enshrining this right will not be enough. If the amendment is approved, subsequent legislation will be necessary to act as the enforcement mechanism behind protecting such a right. Webb highlights on her campaign website that the lack of access to care discriminately affects people of color, immigrants, those in rural areas, and low income individuals. Ensuring the funding and protection of access for individuals, while also protecting healthcare providers, is critical to establishing New York as a sanctuary state in this context.
NOTE: A constitutional amendment in the state of New York has to face final approval from the voters through a referendum where a simple majority of voters is necessary to approve the amendment.
When asked what her first priority would be upon election to the state Senate, Webb stated that moving to pass the aforementioned Equality Amendment is at the top of the list. Resources surrounding affordable housing were also mentioned alongside the Climate Protection Act from 2019 and resources from the Inflation Reduction Act to lower energy costs.
While Happy Medium did not hear from Rich David’s campaign, the Republican candidate in this election, his campaign website and Facebook page were used to gather information about his platform. Rich David is the former Mayor of the City of Binghamton. David is not a native resident of Binghamton, although he moved to the area more than two decades ago (“About”). He first served as deputy mayor for the city. When the administration he worked for was term limited, he transitioned to a role at SUNY Broome Community College. David once again re-immersed himself in city politics when he ran for mayor in 2013. He was successfully elected in 2013 and reelected in 2017. David could not run for reelection in 2021 due to a two-term limit for Binghamton mayors, making way for then-Deputy Mayor Jared Kraham to succeed him.
David is proud of lowering taxes during his tenure as mayor, along with providing expanded funding for the city’s police department. In 2015, David pushed the city council to allocate $100,000 to purchase body-worn cameras for all officers in the department (Lorsch 2015). Along with this funding provided to officers, an additional $20,000 would be allocated to providing officers with updated demographic tracking software, making collection of data pertaining to stops easier to organize and analyze (Lorsch 2015).
His campaign website also emphasizes the David administration’s fight against blight and vacant properties in the city. During his time as mayor, David “demolished more than 100 blighted properties…” (“Rich’s proven track record” 2022).
Several of David’s ads vow a fight against inflation, gas prices, and increased grocery costs. David has been centralizing his campaign about the global price increases that have occured due to the supply chain crisis, energy crisis due to the war in Eastern Europe, and many other factors that a New York state senator cannot unilaterally fix themselves. David’s campaign messaging has been similar to Republican campaigns across the country: focusing on reducing inflation, lowering gas prices, and keeping taxes low/cutting taxes. David is also honing in on another hot-button issue for New York Republicans: bail reform. On his website he strongly announces his opposition to the reforms that have been enacted in recent years regarding the bail system.
The newly drawn map for the New York State Senate heavily favors Democratic candidate Lea Webb. According to data found through Dave’s Redistricting, the partisan lean of the 52nd New York Senate district changed from a partisan lean of 52.36% in favor of Republicans in 2018 to 59.55% in favor of Democrats in 2022, all but securing a Democratic victory in the district. David’s popularity and name recognition in the City of Binghamton, however, will play a large role in the final vote totals, and he would need heavily favorable returns from the city and surrounding urban areas to carry him to victory in this district.
Bryan Goodman is currently the Political Director for Happy Medium. In this role, he consults with both writers and the editing team about specific pieces that could potentially be hot-button issues. He is a graduate student from Valhalla, Westchester County, NY. He attended Westchester Community College for two years before transferring to Binghamton University to complete his undergraduate studies in political science. Bryan is currently enrolled in the 4+1 Master of Public Administration program. Bryan is also passionate about judicial politics and a variety of social/economic issues. His future plans hope to include either law school or a public policy program to further his studies in the field. Bryan hopes to one day be fortunate enough to positively impact as many lives as possible.
“About.” 2022. Rich David For Senate. www.richdavidforsenate.com/about.
Lorsch, Emily. 2015. “Binghamton Mayor Advances Legislation to Purchase 90 Body Cameras for Police Department.” Spectrum News 1, September 7. spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/binghamton/news/2015/09/7/binghamton-body-cameras?fbclid=IwAR12u8RVAqhGBO4p2q4hcYfxotOPaYnJefSa1XgqXKDD6JMEKvYcrQexQls.
“NY 2018 State Senate.” Dave’s Redistricting. davesredistricting.org/maps#stats::bb78268d-ea3c-46a1-a484-c192a6c0e15d.
“NY 2022 State Senate.” Dave’s Redistricting. davesredistricting.org/maps#stats::3c13df3e-2cbc-4ba1-9ee1-2921d81118f0.
“Rich David’s Proven Record.” 2022. Rich David For Senate. www.richdavidforsenate.com/copy-of-rich-s-vision.
“Rich David’s Vision.” 2022. Rich David For Senate. www.richdavidforsenate.com/rich-s-vision.