State Assembly District #123: Donna Lupardo vs. Sophia Resciniti 

By Zach Aleba, Head Writer for New York Politics
Photo: left to right: Sophia Resciniti (R) and Donna Lupardo (D)

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Over a nearly two-decade career as a state assemblywoman for New York’s 123rd assembly district and a district resident for 40 years, Donna Lupardo (D) has seen it all. According to her opponent Sophia Resciniti (R), this longevity represents the very subject of her chagrin toward the political establishment.

The race for the assembly seat in NY’s 123rd district, which encompasses Binghamton and the surrounding towns of Vestal and Union, is a referendum on whether the community favors the mission-based approach of Lupardo or the anti-establishment rhetoric which bolsters Resciniti’s campaign.

For Resciniti, whose campaign website describes her as a “mother, wife, small business owner, social worker, and public servant,” her campaign represents a desire to unseat those legislative stalwarts who she believes are responsible for the economic downturn of New York State in general, and Binghamton in particular. This is the crux of her campaign for the district’s assembly seat and the main point that needs to be understood when considering the motives behind her candidacy. 

The first step of her bid for election came in a primary win against the former Deputy Regional Director at Empire State Development turned legislative hopeful Robin 

Alpaugh. The win was relatively substantial, with Resciniti receiving nearly 60% of the votes. In an interview with NewsChannel 34’s Roy Santa Croce, Reciniti reiterated that the result strengthens her conviction that voters in the 123rd district believe “it’s time for a change,” and confirms that she hears her potential constituents “loud and clear.”

The victory in the primary, while certainly a representation of her mandate among Republican voters, does not necessarily act as a predictor for what may happen in the general election. Lupardo has recently faced little pressure in the Democratic primary, often running unopposed. This leaves her with a stockpile of campaign funds insofar as a financial advantage can be accrued in a local election. This advantage does allow Lupardo more opportunities to distribute her message to the general public in the lead-up to the election.

In addition to this advantage, Lupardo also boasts an extensive record of supporting social issues such as mental health advocacy and recreational/industrial cannabis and hemp legalization, both of which have been hot-button political issues and are sure to make Lupardo appealing to a younger demographic.

Industry is a crucial part of the nine-time incumbent’s approach to lifting the community she represents. Agriculture is one such industry that Lupardo has a particular interest in as a potential boon to the region. As the head of the Agriculture Committee, Lupardo has a unique point of view that allows her to envision the long-term benefits for her constituents in investing in agriculture. On October 7, Lupardo spoke with me via Zoom about the race and the upcoming election. “I took on the committee on Agriculture, not because I have a lot of farms in my district, which I don’t—I have a lot of people who eat.” Lupardo envisions a mutually beneficial relationship between neighboring districts, which allows for the producers, such as farmers and brewers, to have an active market for their goods while the consumers likewise have a wide availability of locally grown and cultivated food, alcohol, hemp, and cannabis (among others).

For Lupardo, who moved to the area in the mid-70s to pursue a graduate degree from Binghamton University, public service is an opportunity to give back the best way she knows how. Lupardo, recounting her entry into politics, remarks that her experiences as an adjunct professor at Binghamton University and her subsequent stint working in community mental health services revealed to her the problems in Albany. “I had this interest in policy and issues, but most of [my interest in public service] stemmed from protecting this community and helping this community grow.”

It is through firsthand experience that she witnessed the changing fortunes in Binghamton’s urban center and the surrounding villages. “I arrived at a heyday starting to deteriorate,” Lupardo explained to me. “After I graduated from graduate school, I decided I wanted to stick around. I got interested in helping the community rebuild its manufacturing base and rebuild its mission in life.”

Lupardo is fiercely interested in combating the palpable sense of internalized pessimism that she admits exists in Binghamton and the surrounding area. As we discussed her guiding principles for her legislating style, she noted that an ability to listen and empathize is vital to progress. “When people would move here oftentimes the first question would be ‘Why would you come to a place like this?’… For me, it’s understanding how people feel, understanding what they’ve been through, how their perspective has been changed by this economic decline, and trying to explain how I think I can help [my constituents].”

This disillusionment with the condition of the 123rd district is a parallel between the two campaigns. Resciniti’s website, while light on policy plans, does drive home the essence of her campaign for state assembly: the establishment must change drastically to improve the district. Her website pledges to “lower taxes for homeowners and small businesses, term limits to clean up Albany, support [for] our police…fight the bad policies driving out businesses and families.” Additionally, her website condemns Albany’s bail reform as a “disaster.”

The aforementioned issues track closely with recent Republican talking points on a national level, and these identity politics have made for good policy to run on for first-time Republican candidates in a number of elections nationwide. Resciniti is positioning herself as the tough-on-crime, anti-establishment Republican archetype. This tends to appeal to the disillusioned middle class, which sees career politicians as a scourge on the current political climate.   

In Lupardo’s case, she has legislated in a way that prioritizes reasonable compromise as the only path forward for the region. She notes that she frequently attempts to talk with “the other side of the aisle” on any number of issues, although she acknowledges that economic issues, not social matters, are the areas where compromise is most likely on a regular basis.

Having served 18 consecutive years as a state assemblywoman for the district, Lupardo has no desire to leave her current role, at least not by choice. Lupardo is well aware of the credit she has built within this community through a track record of legislating in what she believes is in the best interest of economic and social development in the area. Lupardo sees herself as a public servant through and through and points to her senior status in the assembly as a position that allows her to affect change in a significant way that a newcomer may not be able to provide.

Although she has a pedigree of winning elections and feels optimistic about her prospects for November 8, Lupardo feels fulfilled with the role that she has served for NY’s 123rd district, win or lose. For Lupardo, it has always been a concerted, conscious, and mission-based effort to improve her adopted home. “I’ve been a huge cheerleader because I chose this place,” Lupardo told me. “I chose not only to come here to school, but I chose to stay here and then take on this mission.” 

Resciniti, likewise, has a level of confidence as the general election looms just over the horizon. In her interview with Santa Croce, she positioned herself as having “seen the disastrous results of bail reform.” While it is an uphill battle to unseat the long-time incumbent in Lupardo, it certainly cannot be said that Resciniti is lacking in conviction or confidence. 

Zach Aleba is a senior at Binghamton University, majoring in English. Prior to attending BU, he earned an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts from Borough of Manhattan Community College. He hails from Whitney Point, a small town about twenty minutes north of Binghamton. Zach has previously had work published on Parents.com, where he contributed to a young adult advice column. Aside from writing, he enjoys watching Mixed Martial Arts and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

References

 “Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo – Assembly District 123.” Assembly Member Directory, New York State Assembly. assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Donna-A-Lupardo/bio/

Ehmke, Jim. 2022. “Sophia RESCINITI Wins NYS Assembly Primary.” WIVT – NewsChannel 34. www.binghamtonhomepage.com/news/top-stories/sophia-resciniti-wins-nys-assembly-primary/.

“New York State Assembly.” Ballotpedia. ballotpedia.org/New_York_State_Assembly

“Sophia Rescinti Facebook Page.” Facebook. www.facebook.com/Sophia.Resciniti/.

“Support Our Campaign.” Sophia Resciniti for Assembly. sophiaforassembly.com/