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  • Trinidad & Tobago’s Politics are Marked by a Racial and Cultural Divide—Here’s Why

    Trinidad & Tobago’s Politics are Marked by a Racial and Cultural Divide—Here’s Why

    By Rachael Ali, Head Writer for Foreign Affairs
    Art by Rhea Da Costa, Resident Artist

    Read this article and more in our 2023 winter edition, on campus now!

    Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation located just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. The mainland of Trinidad is just 1,850 square miles—roughly the size of Delaware—and the two islands have a combined population of 1,368,000 people who come from a variety of backgrounds. The two main ethnic groups are from African and Indian descent. Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians, as the groups are called, make up 34% and 35% of the population respectively—the latter being my heritage. But how did these two ethnic groups end up in Trinidad & Tobago? What created such a deep divide between them? And how has that influenced Trinidadian politics today?

    Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of Trinidad on his third voyage to the Western hemisphere, and the Spaniards controlled the island from 1498 to 1797, at which point the British took over. Like many other Caribbean islands, Trinidad’s primary agricultural crop is sugarcane. Throughout Spanish and British colonial rule, African slavery was used to cultivate sugarcane until 1838, when England abolished the practice in all of its colonies (Julien 2006). This ruling ended 300 years of cruel and inhumane treatment of enslaved people: familial separation, degradation, torture, and extreme exhaustion from working sixteen to eighteen hours a day (Moore 1995). However, there was still a high global demand for sugar, so the British turned their attention towards India. Thus, the system of Indian indentured servitude began. This influx in immigration from India made Trinidad & Tobago’s racial demographics distinct from other Caribbean islands today. 

    Indians first arrived in Trinidad & Tobago in 1845 (Khan 2007), and the practice of indentured servitude continued until 1917 (Moore 1995). During this 72-year period, roughly 400,000 Indians voyaged to and set up permanent residence in Caribbean nations (Roopnarine 2011). About a third of these Indians were sent to Trinidad (Khan 2007). However, many Indians claimed that they had agreed to voyage to the islands “under false pretense” (Khan 2007), unaware of the harsh conditions that they would endure while working on plantations. 

    African slaves and Indian indentured servants faced similar challenges. For example, strict laws enacted by the white planter class dictated that indentured laborers were unable to travel over two miles past the plantation where they lived and worked (Roopnarine 2011). In fact, the population of Indian indentured laborers had a higher death rate compared to all other ethnic groups in the country (Roopnarine 2011). 

    To reiterate, Africans and Indians arrived in Trinidad & Tobago under colonial rule at the beck and call of the white planter class. Why, then, is there so much racial division in Trinidadian politics today? The answer to this question has religious, societal, and colonial implications. 

    Firstly, Africans and Indians differed in their religious and spiritual beliefs. The majority of Indians brought their Hindu and Muslim faiths to Trinidad, while many Africans maintained the spiritual traditions stemming from their motherland, such as voodoo and obeah (Wright Muir 2020). When Indians arrived to Trinidad, the majority of Afro-Trinidadians had converted to Christianity, while a minority continues to practice voodoo and obeah to this day. However, Indians largely resisted Christianity until the arrival of Reverend John Morton and his Presbyterian missionaries in 1868; and, even then, they remained apprehensive of Westernization (Moore 1995). This is one of the reasons why Indians were faced with xenophobia upon their arrival, as they were foreign and considered to be “exotic” in this pre-formed, Afro-European society (Khan 2007).

    Indian societal and cultural norms were another factor that created a rift between Afro and Indo-Trinidadians. Indians came to Trinidad with the caste system mentality, which forbade them from mingling outside of their class and race. Additionally, as Indians were reluctant to conform, they tended to stay in the rural areas and keep to themselves (Roopnarine 2011). Many Indo-Trinidadians opposed race-mixing because it was viewed as “a drain from the size of the Indian community” (Stoddard and Cornwell 1999), rather than a contribution to a larger culture. 

    One last source of racial tension was the colonial government which inhibited racial intermingling, thus preventing cultural integration. For example, from 1845 to 1917, government officials hired many indigenous peoples and Afro-Trinidadians in order to recapture Indian indentured servants who had fled their plantations. White people in positions of power also divided people of color through the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. One infamous perpetrator of these stereotypes was the previously mentioned Reverand John Morton, the leader of Presbyterian missionaries dedicated to converting Indo-Trinidadians. Morton made it common knowledge in Trinidadian society that Indians were lazy drunkards (Khan 2007), brainwashed by “‘dark idolatry’” and a “‘Mohammedan delusion’” (Moore 1995). Similarly, Morton stated that Afro-Trinidadians were poor, ignorant heathens who beg and steal to survive (Moore 1995). Ultimately, these constant lies and degradation took a psychological toll on the lower classes of African and Indian descent, as these two majority groups began to tear each other down in a desperate attempt to join whites at the top.

    So how does all of this history come into play today? 

    Trinidad & Tobago was emancipated from England in 1962, and the 1960s saw the rise of the People’s National Movement (PNM) which was supported mainly by the Afro-Trinidadian community (Nakhid, Barrow, and Broomes 2016). With the election of Eric Williams (PNM) as Prime Minister in 1966, white officials were ousted from their highly powerful positions in the legislature and the school system. However, a worthy adversary arose to oppose the PNM; the Democratic Labour Party, supported primarily by Indo-Trinidadians, known today as the United National Congress (UNC). 

    Trinidad & Tobago has been under PNM leadership since 2015 with the election of Dr. Keith Rowley as Prime Minister. Prior to his election, the UNC was in power with Prime Minister Kamla Persaud-Bissessar serving from 2010 to 2015. Bissessar was the first woman to hold this position, and made global history as the first person of Indian origin to be elected prime minister of a country outside of India and South Asia. She was also named Time Magazine’s 13th most influential female leader in 2019. One highlight from her administration is the completion of Couva Hospital in 2015, which is currently being used to treat Covid-19 patients as well as conduct research regarding post-Covid treatments by students at the University of West Indies in Trinidad.

    Despite this success, many Trinidadians are upset with the state of Couva Hospital, which was originally intended to be a children’s hospital with facilities for adults. It was supposed to be a fully functioning hospital with a burns care unit and a pharmacy, but it is not being used to its full potential or capacity. This is largely due to the subsequent Rowley administration, which has stated that the government was unable to provide sufficient funding and staff for the institution. However, many Trinidadian citizens and politicians are in disbelief, as “there have been calls to have the hospital functioning and to forget the politics” (Wayow 2016). This hospital could serve Trinidadians of all races and political affiliations and has strong grassroots support, but the Rowley administration’s course of action has caused even further division and animosity. 

    Despite negative public response over the hospital, Rowley’s administration has coped well with the Covid-19 pandemic, with 51.3% of the total Trinidadian population fully vaccinated.

    Despite this success, a large reason behind the delayed opening of the Couva Hospital and why Trinidad’s political parties are racially divided is because the country is ethnically segregated. In other words, there are “black” areas and “Indian” areas, much like how regions in the US are predominantly white and others are mostly populated by people of color or immigrants due to historical practices like redlining. Indo-Trinidadians are typically found in the South of Trinidad while Afro-Trinidadians reside in the North of the island. This has led to certain issues in particular areas being ignored by whichever administration is elected. In December 2022, I stayed with my family in the South of Trinidad for over two weeks, and it was not hard to notice that their roads are littered with dangerous potholes and far too narrow to qualify as two-way streets (but are functioning as such). Indo-Trinidadians, like the cousins who I stayed with, have been imploring the government to fix this faulty infrastructure, but because this issue is in the South, these inquiries have gone ignored by the PNM for eight years.  

    All in all, present racial tensions in the Trinidadian government can be traced to British colonialism, as the white upper class took advantage of differences between Africans and Indians and used these differences to turn these two groups against each other. These harmful, colonial-era stereotypes have unfortunately persisted to this day and made their way to the top of the Trinidadian government, resulting in the suffering of the entire Trinidadian population, regardless of race.

    Rachael Ali is a third-year undergraduate student at BU, currently serving as Happy Medium’s Head Writer for Foreign Affairs. She is originally from the Bronx and is majoring in political science with a double-minor in Spanish and French. Rachael’s goal is to attend law school and become an international lawyer. This past summer, Rachael was an intern political journalist at Happy Medium. Topics that Rachael is passionate about include immigration, reproductive rights, indigenous communities, gun laws, and environmental justice.

    References

    Chan Tack, Clint. 2022. “Rowley: Don’t let guard down on covid19.” Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, December 31. newsday.co.tt/2022/12/31/rowley-dont-let-guard-down-on-covid19/.

    “COUVA Children’s Hospital.” 2013. United National Congress, June 1. unctt.org/couva-childrens-hospital/.

    “COVID-19 Weekly Update – Tuesday January 03, 2023.” 2023. Ministry of Public Health, Goverment of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, January 3. health.gov.tt/covid-19-weekly-update-tuesday-january-03-2023.

    Description of “Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Trinidad and Tobago: Political Parties Material.” Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library, University of London. archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/0ce6807a-817d-324c-b976-fd0226b437b2.

    “The Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley.” Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs. foreign.gov.tt/about/honourable-dr-keith-rowley/.  

    Julien, Lisa-Anne. 2006. “The Life and Times of King Sugar.” New African, May: 62–63. 

    “Kamla Persad-Bissessar.” Archives of Women’s Political Communication, Iowa State University. awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/directory/kamla-persad-bissessar/

    “Kamla Persad-Bissessar: Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (2010-2015).” Council of Women World Leaderswww.councilwomenworldleaders.org/kamla-persad-bissessar.html.

    Khan, Aisha. 2007. “Mixing Matters: Callaloo Nation Revisited.” Callaloo, 30(1): 51–67. doi:10.1353/cal.2007.0145. 

    Khan, Rishard. 2022a. “Doctors—Plans to remove Couva hospital as main COVID facility.” Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, October 17. www.guardian.co.tt/news/doctors-plans-to-remove-couva-hospital-as-main-covid-facility-6.2.1559009.37f18370d0.

    Khan, Rishard. 2022b. “Couva hospital to be used for UWI research post-COVID treatment.” Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, October 27. guardian.co.tt/news/couva-hospital-to-be-used-for-uwi-research-postcovid-treatment-6.2.1563121.482b9677f7.

    Moore, Dennison. 1995. Origins & Development of Racial Ideology in Trinidad: the Black View of the East Indian. Orleans, Ontario: NYCAN International Inc. 

    Nakhid, Camille, Dorian Barrow and Orlena Broomes. 2016. “Situating the Education of African Trinidadians within the Social and Historical Context of Trinidad and Tobago: Implications for Social Justice.” Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 9(2): 171–187. doi.org/10.1177/1746197914534817.

    “People of Trinidad and Tobago.” Encyclopaedia Britannicawww.britannica.com/place/Trinidad-and-Tobago/People.

    Robinson, A., Napoleon Raymond, David Watts, and Bridget M. Brereton. 2023. “Trinidad and Tobago.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, January 1. www.britannica.com/place/Trinidad-and-Tobago.

    Roopnarine, Lomarsh. 2011. “Indian Migration during Indentured Servitude in British Guiana and Trinidad, 1850–1920.” Labor History, 52(2): 173–191, doi:10.1080/0023656x.2011.571473. 

    “Size of States.” State Symbols USAstatesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/national-us/uncategorized/states-size.

    Stoddard, Eve, and Grant H. Cornwell. 1999. “Cosmopolitan or Mongrel? Créolité, Hybridity and ‘Douglarisation’ in Trinidad.” European Journal of Cultural Studies, 2(3): 331–353. doi:10.1177/136754949900200303. 

    Wayow, Sue-Ann. 2016. “Will the Couva Childrens Hospital ever open.” Daily Express, One Caribbean Media, April 11. trinidadexpress.com/news/local/will-the-couva-childrens-hospital-ever-open/article_e079281e-830e-5da3-89a3-c57258d612ef.html.

    Wright Muir, Ghenete. 2020. “Reclaiming the Caribbean’s Old Religions: Vodou, Santeria and Obeah.” Island Origins: The Caribbean American Lifestyle Magazine, July 26. islandoriginsmag.com/reclaiming-the-caribbeans-old-religions-vodou-santeria-and-obeah/.

  • Binghamton University Alum Hakeem Jeffries Becomes New House Minority Leader in Democratic Leadership Shakeup

    Binghamton University Alum Hakeem Jeffries Becomes New House Minority Leader in Democratic Leadership Shakeup

    By Amanda Escotto, Lead Editor
    Art by Rhea Da Costa, Resident Artist

    Read this article and more in our 2023 winter edition, on campus now!

    The introduction of the 118th Congress has come with a new minority leader: Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Nominated as the first Black congressman to lead a political party in Congress, Jeffries has already pushed boundaries previously unexplored in congressional politics. Hakeem Jeffries has a special place in the heart of the Binghamton University community, completing his bachelor’s degree at the university in 1992 (Ellis 2022). With Jeffries becoming more prominent in American politics now than ever before, Happy Medium offers a profile of the congressman as a politician and as a Binghamton alum. 

    Jeffries is a Brooklynite, born and raised. He grew up in Crown Heights with his parents Marland Jeffries, a substance abuse counselor, and Laneda Gomes Jeffries, a social worker. He is a product of the New York City public school system, graduating from Midwood High School in 1988. After graduating from Binghamton University in 1992, Jeffries went on to earn a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University in 1994. He did not stop there; by 1997, he graduated with a Juris Doctorate from the New York University School of Law (“Hakeem Jeffries Fast Facts” 2023). 

    While working towards his undergraduate degree at Binghamton University, Jeffries immersed himself in the Binghamton community, both inside and outside of the classroom. He recalled being named head of his pledge line and how it impacted his ability to see himself as a leader, sharing that it was “one of the first moments as a teenager when someone else seemed to think there was some measure of leadership in [him]” (“Jeffries is in the House” 2013). He later served as president of that fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, during his junior and senior year at Binghamton (“Jeffries is in the House” 2013), and he was also an engaged member of the Black Student Union here on campus (Ellis 2022). Being the minority leader requires an extraordinarily developed set of leadership skills, and Jeffries has credited Binghamton University and the experiences it brought him for the development of his personal confidence and ability to lead assuredly. He has since continued to discuss his time at Binghamton University, which he fondly referes to as “bingo”, as a place that provided him with the environment and opportunity to receive a foundation of knowledge about public service and government (Ellis 2022). 

    After graduating from NYU Law School and before his career in the New York State Assembly, Jeffries briefly dabbled in a career as a lawyer (“Factbox” 2022). From there, Jeffries served in the State Assembly for six years, from 2007 to 2012 (Congressman Hakeem Jeffries 2022). It was in the Assembly that he began his growth as a political figure. Jeffries championed a variety of notable issues such as affordable housing and policing, namely opposition to the controversial “Stop and Frisk” practice in New York City subways  (“Factbox” 2022). 

    Throughout Jeffries’ nine years in Congress representing New York’s 8th district he served on several committees, including the House Judiciary Committee and the House Budget Committee (“Committees” 2022). By 2019, Jeffries had become the 5th highest-ranking Democrat after being appointed as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. As Democratic caucus chair, Jeffries was tasked with forming the “Caucus Issues Task Forces–through which legislative and party policy is developed and communicated” (“Who We Are” 2022). He also appointed members to lead each task force. 

    For the last several years of Jeffries’ time in office serving New York’s 8th district, his campaigns have outlined priorities such as more affordable housing, healthcare, and education (“Issues” 2022). Jeffries’ election as House minority leader makes him the first Black congressman to lead a political party in Congress. Although this milestone is notable, it is not his first time making congressional history. Jeffries began to substantially rise in popularity in January 2020 when former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appointed him as one of seven impeachment managers that acted as prosecutors in the Senate’s first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, becoming the first Black man to assume this role (Congressman Hakeem Jeffries 2022). The national recognition he received as an impeachment manager and his continuous legislative efforts boosted him closer to the speakership. 

    Following Hakeem Jeffries’ election as minority leader on November 30, 2022, a number of prominent New York political figures expressed their approval, satisfied with having a New Yorker and Brooklyn local leading the Democratic Party in Congress.

    “There is no better advocate for our Democratic values than Brooklyn’s own Representative Hakeem Jeffries.” 

    Statement by Governor Kathy Hochul

    “New York City will have a champion in our nation’s capital while we continue to fight for our fair share of federal funding and a multitude of other priorities that will support New Yorkers.”

    Statement by NYC Mayor Eric Adams

    Jeffries also received positive feedback regarding his new position from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a leading organization promoting racial justice in the law. 

    “His election marks another important moment for our nation as our legislative halls at the federal and state levels continue to become more representative of our multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy.”

    Statement by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

    During the House Speaker elections, which began on January 3, the American public watched as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) struggled to attain a majority of votes cast as his caucus stood divided. Meanwhile, Democrats remained unanimous in their support for Jeffries’ nomination. McCarthy was elected Speaker on the 15th round of voting, and there was a unanimous and peaceful transfer of power as Jeffries passed McCarthy the gavel in the early morning of January 6, 2023 (Sprunt and Davis 2022). 

    Jeffries’ first official speech as minority leader laid out his prioities for Democrats for the next two years. He mentioned Democrats would continue to promote economic opportunities and reproductive freedom. With Republicans’ slim majority, many have been concerned about increasing polarization and the lack of bipartisanship in Congress and throughout the country’s political environment. Jeffries addressed these concerns in his speech, and to his Republican colleagues, he affirmed, “We do extend our hand of partnership to you. We want to make clear that we extend and intend to try to find common ground, wherever and whenever possible on behalf of the American people. Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, not as Independents, but as Americans” (“New York Democrat” 2023). 

    While we live with a divided government, Americans will witness the attempts by the major parties and their members to negotiate new policies, this comes with the necessity for the new majority and minority officials to work together in order to arrange effective ways to govern. Hakeem Jeffries’ new position as minority leader stands as a proud moment for his supporters and the Binghamton University community. For many students, Jeffries’ legacy will serve as inspiration for their future career paths and the possibilities that lay ahead.

    Amanda Escotto is a copy-editor for Happy Medium Magazine as well as the lead editor for the High School Magazine Development Program (HSMDP). She is an undergrad at Binghamton University studying political science and a candidate for a Master of Public Administration through the university’s 4+1 program. She is from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and loves to listen to music and paint in her free time. Over the last year, Amanda worked on two congressional campaigns and gained experience in driving political mobilization and strategic campaign operations. Amanda is especially passionate about congressional politics, elections, and public policy, as well as issues relating to reproductive rights, immigration, and representation. She plans to dedicate her career to the public sector.

    References

    Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. jeffries.house.gov/about/.

    “Committees: Hakeem Jeffries.” 2022. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. jeffries.house.gov/legislation/committees-and-caucuses/.

    Ellis, Katie. 2022. “Binghamton Grad Hakeem Jeffries ‘92 Elected House Democratic Leader.” BingUNews, November 30. www.binghamton.edu/news/story/3998/binghamton-grad-hakeem-jeffries-92-elected-house-democratic-leader1.

    “Factbox: Who Is U.S. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries?” 2022. Reuters, November 30. www.reuters.com/world/us/who-is-hakeem-jeffries-favored-candidate-us-house-democratic-leader-2022-11-18/.

    “Hakeem Jeffries Fast Facts.” 2023. CNN, January 5. www.cnn.com/2023/01/05/us/hakeem-jeffries-fast-facts/index.html.

    “Issues.” 2022. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. jeffries.house.gov/issues/.

    “Jeffries is in the House – Binghamton’s first alumnus elected to Congress.” 2013. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, August 9. jeffries.house.gov/2013/08/09/jeffries-is-in-the-house-binghamtons-first-alumnus-elected-to-congress/.

    “LDF Congratulates Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on Historic Election as House Minority Leader.” 2022. Legal Defense Fund, November 30. www.naacpldf.org/press-release/ldf-congratulates-rep-hakeem-jeffries-on-historic-election-as-house-minority-leader/.

    “Mayor Adams’ Statement on Representative Hakeem Jeffries’ Election as U.S. House Minority Leader.” 2022. The official website of the City of New York, November 30. www.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/873-22/mayor-adams-on-u-s-representative-hakeem-jeffries-election-u-s-house-minority.

    “New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries Delivers Speech after McCarthy’s Election as Speaker of the House.” 2023. C-SPAN, January 7. www.c-span.org/video/?c5050190%2Fyork-democrat-hakeem-jeffries-delivers-speech-mccarthys-election-speaker-house.

    Sprunt, Barbara and Susan David. 2023. “Kevin McCarthy is elected House speaker after 15 votes and days of negotiations.” NPR, January 7. www.npr.org/2023/01/06/1147470516/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-of-the-house-vote.

     “Statement from Governor Kathy Hochul on Election of Hakeem Jeffries to House Democratic Leadership.” 2022. Governor Kathy Hochul, November 30. www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-governor-kathy-hochul-election-hakeem-jeffries-house-democratic-leadership.

    “Who We Are.” 2022. House Democrats. www.dems.gov/who-we-are

  • Student Candidate Chance Fiorisi Stakes His Claim for Binghamton City Council

    Student Candidate Chance Fiorisi Stakes His Claim for Binghamton City Council

    By Bryan Goodman, Political Director and Head Writer for Elections
    Art by Rhea Da Costa, Resident Artist

    Read this article and more in our 2023 winter edition, on campus now!

    It is not often that college students run for elected office in the towns where they go to school. However, in the city of Binghamton, this has happened before and is happening again. Binghamton University undergraduate Chance Fiorisi is running for the Binghamton City Council during the 2023 election cycle. He is running in the third district which is located on Binghamton’s West Side. Fiorisi is also the president of Binghamton University’s College Democrats chapter. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with the candidate about his background, motivation to run, qualifications, and the policy issues he is campaigning on.

    Fiorisi, a sophomore at Binghamton University studying political science, aspires to stay at the university to receive his Master of Public Administration. He is originally from Dutchess County, New York. His father is a painter, and his mother is a dietary aide who he has worked with when home on breaks. Fiorisi indicated that it is difficult for people like him to run for office for multiple reasons, but namely because he is young, which means he does not have a lot of money to spend on the campaign. He also does not have a set career at the moment because he is a student and does not come from wealth. He placed emphasis on the fact that he is a student and could be focusing all of his energy on academics or partying every weekend. Running a campaign is a demanding task, and it will require great discipline from Fiorisi and his team. 

    Fiorisi also acknowledged that, since he is a student running for office, his candidacy may not be the most appealing to voters within the city. In response to that, he said, “… I know I’m running for city council simply because I believe that we need to bring vigor and a new breath of fresh air to city council.” A pro-choice advocate, Fiorisi initially got the idea to run for city council last May when the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision was leaked.

    Two key issues Fiorisi discussed during our time together had to do with the recent re-zoning laws on the West Side of Binghamton, and the city council’s redistricting, which Fiorisi called “an example of extreme political gerrymandering.” The student-dominant West Side housing has been an issue that has attracted predatory landlords while also pricing out permanent residents in the area, leading to constant tenant turnover in this area of the city. 

    He plans to run in the newly drawn third district. This district is currently represented by Angela Riley (D), but she will not be running for re-election in 2023, creating a vacancy on the city council. Due to this vacancy, an incumbency advantage will not be in play. This city council seat will be an open contest, leaving room for political outsiders to come in, captivate the electorate, and unexpectedly win an election. This poses a risk to Fiorisi’s candidacy, as he could not be received well by the local electorate, allowing what is expected to be a safe seat for Democrats to fall into the hands of the Republicans on the city council.

    Current District Map

    New District Map

    Fiorisi is running in the third district (yellow)

    Many young adults and college-aged students live within this district, allowing Fiorisi to build stronger connections with the residents he would be representing. However, there may be some difficulties regarding the electorate within the district due to students that are registered to vote at an outdated address from the previous academic year, not registered to vote in Binghamton, or not registered to vote at all.

    Fiorisi is running as a Democrat, and his involvement through Binghamton College Democrats has helped him build connections and position himself well for a run for city council. I asked him if he had been in contact with the Broome County Democrats and the Binghamton Democrats regarding his candidacy. As the president of Binghamton College Democrats, Fiorisi has a seat on the Broome County Democratic Committee. He also sat down with members of the Binghamton Democratic Committee and discussed necessary changes in candidate recruitment. For local elections, the committees typically engage in an outreach process to field individuals interested in running for office. He said that his intent to run for office was generally well received and accepted, and he is very thankful to the city committee for being so cordial to him. 

    When asked about his coalition-building and electoral strategy, as well as its reliance on students, Fiorisi responded that he is not just running a city council campaign for students—he is running to represent every inhabitant of district three. He acknowledges that, while the district has a student-heavy population, permanent residents and families are living within this district as well. His canvassing strategy includes knocking on every door within the district throughout the summertime if he faces a Democratic primary opponent and picking right back up again in the fall as the general election approaches. Fiorisi displayed confidence that he could win the Democratic nomination for the seat.

    When asked about the biggest issues facing the city, the housing crisis was at the top of his list. He points out that the city’s population has been in a steady decline and that the city government is not doing enough for people who want to move to Binghamton and build their lives and families here. The lack of affordable housing prices out potential residents and drives away families looking for somewhere to settle down and start a life.

    Fiorisi’s main platform consists of ensuring roads are built, focusing on crime, and making sure local businesses are growing and have the potential to thrive. He recognizes that there needs to be proper incentive structures for the businesses in the area to succeed. When I asked about his position on police funding, Fiorisi said, “I just want to make it clear that I, specifically, do not full-on support, just the notion of defunding the police. I don’t like the whole idea that goes behind that.” Continuing on the topic of police reform, Fiorisi stated: “The main issue I have with talking about police is that we need police reform, we need to make sure that police officers are well connected within the community, and we need to make sure that the community isn’t afraid of police officers.” He acknowledged that this concept goes much deeper than the city council’s politics and governance and that it requires time and commitment to achieve such goals. As our discussion on crime continued, it started to shift towards some root causes of crime, including the lack of affordable housing as well as unstable sources of income. Fiorisi believes that one-step solutions—such as adding more police officers or providing other singular mechanisms of relief—are unlikely to result in consistently lower crime rates in the city. 

    In terms of general campaign strategy, Fiorisi has emphasized the importance of being on the ground in the district rather than building a community of support solely online. This is important because, while some portions of his potential constituency may be online—younger, college-aged students—the permanent residents in the district may not be as present on social media platforms where Fiorisi is advertising himself. He hopes to knock on every door at least twice, possibly three times.

    Continuing on the topic of social media, when asked about how a politician’s presence online may impact their decision-making, Fiorisi emphasized that he wants to be as accessible to his constituents as possible. The importance of making decisions for your constituents and what is in their best interest after weighing all of the potential positives and negatives of certain actions is a value he hopes to employ if elected.

    I asked Fiorisi what his priorities would be during his first year on the council if elected. He mentioned the redevelopment/repurposing of an abandoned plaza off of Main Street to attract new businesses and to “revive the community.” He is also focused on fixing and removing potholes that are notorious across the West Side of Binghamton. When asked about particular business incentives and the extraction of money out of the local economy by large national companies, he expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of big corporations coming into Binghamton and buying up the spaces that local businesses may otherwise be able to utilize. He mentioned the potential for tax incentives, partnerships with municipal agencies, and whatever else is necessary to attract economic growth.

    I wrapped up the interview by asking Fiorisi what he hopes his lasting legacy would be if elected to serve on the city council. He said he hopes to be remembered for doing everything possible to get his constituents’ needs heard and their voices brought to the table. He wants them to feel heard, loved, and appreciated by the city council. 

    Fiorisi also has an incredible opportunity for wordplay off his first name—Chance—for a brilliant campaign slogan, and his communications team has produced several. The current leading contender is “A Chance for Binghamton.” 

    Leading the way for a new era of political leaders from Generation Z has been a hot topic since the 2022 midterms saw the election of the first Gen Z congressman, Maxwell Frost (D–FL). Chance Fiorisi has an opportunity to build off of Frost’s momentum and propel Generation Z further into the most important discussions in communities across the country.

    Bryan Goodman is currently the Political Director for Happy Medium. In this role, he consults with writers and the editing team about specific pieces that could potentially be hot-button issues. Bryan also serves as Happy Medium’s Head Writer for Elections. He is a recent graduate of Binghamton University’s Masters of Public Administration program. Bryan is from Valhalla, Westchester County, NY, where he attended Westchester Community College for two years before transferring to BU to complete his undergraduate studies in political science. Bryan is passionate about judicial politics and a variety of social/economic issues. Bryan hopes to one day be fortunate enough to positively impact as many lives as possible.

  • 2022 Midterm Elections Recap

    2022 Midterm Elections Recap

    By Bryan Goodman, Political Director and Head Writer for Elections
    Photo: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) exiting the White House—he is the most probable candidate to become the next Speaker of the House.

    The results of the 2022 midterm elections in the United States did not go as anticipated. Currently, Democrats have maintained their Senate majority by flipping the Pennsylvania seat following the retirement of Senator Pat Toomey. However, Democrats did lose control of the House of Representatives, but not in a landslide or “shellacking” like we saw in 2010.

    With inflation reaching levels of 8.5%, Democrats were surprisingly able to stave off a sweep of both chambers of Congress by Republicans. This Democratic overperformance was not just seen at the federal level, however. Michigan Democrats won their first trifecta in the state since the 1980s, and Democrats held gubernatorial seats throughout the Rustbelt region in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, while flipping the Arizona governorship out West. The most impressive victory for Democrats, however, came from the hold that Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas achieved in her re-election campaign. Democrats also held onto the Alaska at-large Congressional district that Mary Peltola picked up in September of this year, again running ahead of Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.

    The House of Representatives

    Democrats faced an uphill climb from the start when it came to maintaining a majority in the House of Representatives. They won a slim majority in 2020, which meant that 2022 would be even more difficult to maintain. With a failed gerrymander in New York, more competitive districts were drawn, providing a path to victory for Republicans in the House to go through New York. And that is exactly what happened. Historically, the President’s party loses seats in the midterm election. Only twice in the past 100 years has a President’s party expanded its majority in both Chambers of Congress—1934 and 2002—both during tumultuous times of the Great Depression and following the September 11th attacks. The political environment for the 2022 midterms was setting itself up to be on the same scale as 2010, where Democrats suffered heavy losses in the House but managed to hold the Senate. 

    This would have been the case until June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. My analysis of special congressional elections before and after the Dobbs decision suggested that voter trends were shifting back in favor of Democrats following the decision to overturn Roe. Voter antipathy shifted from Democrats to Republicans following this ruling, and Democrats took it and ran with it. They made the House competitive again.

    It is interesting to note that the Democratic approach to the midterms of funding extreme Republican candidates in primaries across the country with the hopes of making it easier for a Democratic candidate to win in the general election (Linskey 2022). As Ellen Ioanes (2022) shows, this strategy did pay off in some House, Senate, and Gubernatorial races, but at what cost? Amplifying these candidates can be risky business, and in an environment like the 2016 election, those candidates could get elected.

    Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney, lost his seat after moving from NY-18 to NY-17, pushing freshman incumbent Mondaire Jones down into New York City to run for re-election. Maloney’s choice to not run in the more difficult NY-18 was proven to be a fatal one for his Congressional career. He lost in NY-17 to Republican Mike Lawler, while Democrat Pat Ryan was able to win in NY-18. Maloney may have lost his race, but he was able to lead Democrats to several flips in other states. Unfortunately, Democrats also got swept in the four districts on Long Island while also losing a seat in Oregon held by conservative Democrat Kurt Schrader, who lost his primary earlier this year. Democrat difficulties were not limited to New York and an Oregon seat, however. Democrats lost several seats in Florida due to Stephanie Murphy not running for re-election and Charlie Crist deciding to run for governor—only to lose in a rout to presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis. Gerrymanders in Alabama and Louisiana also hampered Democrats’ chances of winning more seats in the House since the Supreme Court decided to wait until after the elections to make decisions on the maps being challenged for violations of the Voting Rights Act. 

    In the end, Democrats fell short of maintaining a majority in the House. Luckily for them, the Republican caucus is in a fragile state where it is not clear whether Kevin McCarthy will have the votes to become Speaker, giving moderate Republicans and House Democrats a chance to come to an agreement that sees a moderate Republican serve as Speaker to lock out the more extreme wing of the Republican Party.

    The Senate

    Polling indicators from FiveThirtyEight showed a late break to Republicans as Election Day drew closer (“Senate Election Forecast” 2022). While this all but indicated a Democratic loss of the chamber, the results say otherwise. In mid-October, FiveThirtyEight’s polling data for the New Hampshire Senate race gave incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan a 7.8% lead, which shrunk to a 2.2% lead as of Election Day (“Senate Forecast – New Hampshire” 2022). Hassan bucked the trend and outperformed even her mid-October polling average, winning the seat by 8.89%, which translates to 55,355 votes (DDHQ 2022 Senate). Hassan’s overwhelming victory shows that New Hampshire residents were more comfortable splitting a ticket between Republican Governor Chris Sununu and Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. This can be attributed to the unfavorability of the Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc, who received the endorsement of former President Trump.

    Several Trump-endorsed Senate candidates suffered the same fate as Bolduc. Blake Masters, the Republican candidate in Arizona, lost his race to Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly by 4.89% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022), and Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania lost to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman by 4.55% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). Lastly, Kelly Tshibaka, another Senate candidate endorsed by Trump, lost to incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.

    Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto was also able to fend off a challenge from Adam Laxalt, grandson of former Senator Paul Laxalt. FiveThirtyEight listed the race as a tossup and gave Laxalt a greater chance to win the race than the incumbent Cortez-Masto (“Senate Election Forecast – Nevada” 2022). Following the tabulation of mail-in votes from Washoe and Clark County, home of Reno and Las Vegas, respectively, Cortez-Masto pulled ahead of Laxalt, and the race was called by various media outlets and elections analysts.

    Candidates that Trump endorsed and went on to win in key states include incumbent Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Ted Budd of North Carolina. Vance defeated House Democrat Tim Ryan, who put up a surprisingly good fight in Ohio’s Senate race, outperforming Joe Biden’s margin in the state in 2020 by about 1.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). Budd outperformed Senator Thom Tillis’ margin of victory in 2020 with a decisive victory against North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Budd won by nearly 3.5%, more than doubling Tillis’ margin.

    Wisconsin was seen as another state where Democrats could have picked up an additional Senate seat. Unfortunately for them, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes lost by 1%, which translates to roughly 27,700 votes (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022). This result in Wisconsin has led many to question the Democrats’ decision to let their candidate spend $79 million (“Florida Senate 2022” 2022) in a Florida Senate race that ended in a blowout by incumbent Republican Marco Rubio. Rubio won the race by 16.43% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022).

    While Democrats spent nearly $70 million in a Florida Senate race that was doomed from the start, Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin only spent $40 million (“Wisconsin Senate 2022” 2022). This does not include outside spending, which according to OpenSecrets, shows $52 million (“Wisconsin Senate 2022” 2022) was spent in opposition to Barnes, while only $37 million (Open Secrets Wisconsin Senate 2022) was spent in opposition to Johnson. The rapid influx of outside spending in Wisconsin compared to the near absent outside spending in Florida shows that special interest groups knew from the start that Wisconsin was going to be a critical race for control of the Senate. If Democrats had been able to identify how crucial the Wisconsin race was and diverted more attention from somewhere like Florida to Wisconsin, the results could have been much different, and Democrats may have already had their 51-seat majority regardless of the Georgia results. 

    The Georgia runoff election was held on December 6, 2022, and incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock was re-elected by around three percentage points over Republican challenger Herschel Walker. This gave Democrats a 51-seat majority in the chamber—a true majority. However, the celebration of a true majority in the Senate was ground to a halt by the end of the week when Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced that she would be leaving the Democratic Party. Sinema does still receive her committee assignments from Democrats, essentially meaning she caucuses with the Democrats, but this now exhausts further pressure on Joe Manchin of West Virginia and his prospects of re-election in 2024. Had Sinema remained a Democrat, Manchin would have been able to vote more conservatively, positioning himself better for his re-election campaign in 2024. This move by Sinema may also be one of self-preservation. If she hopes to stay in the Senate, running in a Democratic primary in 2024 would be disastrous for her due to her unfavorability by Arizona Democrats. As an independent, she avoids the possibility of losing a primary and puts Democrats in a position of having a three-way race between her, a Democrat nominee, and a Republican nominee. If enough Democrat voters defect from the Democratic nominee and go to Sinema, she either gets re-elected, or a Republican wins.

    Gubernatorial Elections

    Democratic candidates saw a wave of success all across the country in key battleground states’ gubernatorial elections. Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania all had gubernatorial elections that could prove to be critical in certifying the results of the 2024 Presidential election. These governor seats are also instrumental in approving or rejecting laws passed by the respective state legislatures regarding abortion.

    The closest of these four races was Arizona, where Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated Trump-endorsed candidate Kari Lake. Lake seemed to be lining herself up to be a potential running-mate for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential bid; however, with her loss, she will likely drift out of political relevance. Early on in the campaign, Lake and several prominent Republicans had sought to get Katie Hobbs to recuse herself from the election oversight role that the Arizona Secretary of State has. Hobbs did not recuse herself. Lake used this, along with various incidents at voting precincts around the state to draw uncertainty around the election and its results. Decision Desk projected Hobbs as the winner for this race, beating Lake 50.33%-49.67%, equating to approximately 17,000 votes. This election by Hobbs completes a near Democratic sweep of Arizona statewide elections during the 2022 cycle. 

    In the state of Michigan, incumbent Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer cruised to re-election over Republican candidate Tudor Dixon. Whitmer won 54.48%-43.92% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). Along with Whitmer’s resounding victory, Democrats in Michigan were able to earn a trifecta in the state government, meaning that they held power in both legislative chambers and in the governor’s mansion.

    In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro beat Doug Mastriano by an astounding margin of 56.37%-41.82% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022), showing that Pennsylvania’s governor’s mansion will remain a Democratic stronghold. Shapiro outran Fetterman by about ten points, indicating that there were hundreds of thousands of Shapiro-Oz voters. As mentioned earlier, however, this ticket-splitting was not enough to propel Oz to the United States Senate. Additionally, Democrat Tony Evers was re-elected in Wisconsin by nearly 3.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022) over Tim Michels, and Democratic Governor Tim Walz was re-elected in Minnesota’s governor’s race. Republicans were able to flip the governor’s seat in Nevada, which saw Joe Lombardo defeat incumbent Steve Sisolack. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was successful in his re-election campaign, a rematch of the 2018 election against Stacey Abrams. However, Kemp’s decisive victory was not enough to pull Herschel Walker across the 50%+1 line needed to avoid a runoff election.

    There were a few surprising results in other gubernatorial races, including Florida, New York, Kansas, and Vermont. Ron DeSantis routed former Republican Governor and now-Democratic candidate for Charlie Crist, winning by nearly 20 points (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). This result, compounded with the Senate result, has all but removed Florida from its categorization as a swing state. This astounding victory positions DeSantis well for a run at the 2024 Republican nomination for President. In New York, incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul was re-elected after defeating House member Lee Zeldin in a closer-than-anticipated race. The red wave seen in New York may not have been enough to propel a Republican to the governorship for the first time in 15 years, but the wave was large enough to propel several Republicans into Congress in seats that leaned Democratic.

    Kansas and Vermont saw two very opposite results in their governors’ races and Senate races. In Kansas, incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly was able to win re-election by a margin of 2.7% (“DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). On that very same ticket, incumbent Republican Senator Jerry Moran was re-elected by a 22% margin. This is yet another prime example of ticket-splitting that has been seen in Alaska, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and New Hampshire. The opposite of what happened in Kansas’ ticket splitting occurred in Vermont as well. Incumbent Republican governor Phil Scott was re-elected by over 47%, while Democrat Peter Welch was elected to the Senate by a margin of 40.5% (“DDHQ 2022 Senate” 2022; “DDHQ 2022 Governor” 2022). These two results wound up on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but just like Kansas, they show how voters in each state can differentiate their votes on state issues and federal issues. 

    Conclusion

    The 2022 midterm election results likely serve as an indicator of what we can expect in 2024. In the House, Democrats will have a legitimate chance to flip control and win back a majority solely based on turnout in a Presidential election year. Conversely, the Senate map in 2024 is going to be very difficult for them to maintain a majority, with three seats up in Republican-heavy states in Presidential election years. These states include Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia. Additionally, Democrats have to defend seats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona. This gives Republicans the opportunity to run the table and sweep the Senate majority from the Democrats, providing a heavy check on a Democratic president if elected in 2024. 

    There were many key state legislature races that occurred during this midterm cycle as well. Following this election cycle, Democrats control 20 state legislatures, Republicans control 28, and two are split. These legislative compositions may prove to have serious implications for the 2024 Presidential election, depending upon how the Supreme Court rules in Moore v. Harper and whether it breathes legitimacy into the Independent State Legislature Theory.

    We are likely going to see a highly gridlocked Congress for the next two years unless special elections change the majority control of the House or there is a revolt in the Republican caucus against presumptive Speaker McCarthy, which leads to moderate Republicans working with the Democrats in the House to form a majority governing coalition. It will be a historic sight to see, nonetheless. As of November 30, House Democrats unanimously voted Representative Hakeem Jeffries to the position of party leader, which would currently be Minority Leader. This move makes Jeffries the first African-American representative elected to be a major party leader in Congress. This puts Jeffries in line to become the next Democratic Speaker of the House. Jeffries is most notable to the Binghamton area for being a Binghamton University alumni, graduating in the 1990s.

    It seems that until the Dobbs decision is overturned, reproductive rights will be a major driving force for voters, regardless of party. It was able to propel Democrats to gain a seat in the Senate while staving off a disaster in the House. The 2024 election is just under two years away, and it currently looks that Democrats will lose seats in the Senate unless Manchin (D-WV), Tester (D-MT), and Brown (D-OH) can pull off miracles while other candidates can ride the presidential candidates’ coattails in other key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan.

    Bryan Goodman is currently the Political Director for Happy Medium. In this role, he consults with writers and the editing team about specific pieces that could potentially be hot-button issues. Bryan also serves as Happy Medium’s Head Writer for Elections. He is a recent graduate of Binghamton University’s Masters of Public Administration program. Bryan is from Valhalla, Westchester County, NY where he attended Westchester Community College for two years before transferring to BU to complete his undergraduate studies in political science. Bryan is passionate about judicial politics and a variety of social/economic issues. Bryan hopes to one day be fortunate enough to positively impact as many lives as possible.

    References

    “DDHQ 2022 Governor.” 2022. Decision Desk. https://results.decisiondeskhq.com/national/2022-governor.

    “DDHQ 2022 Senate.” 2022. Decision Desk. https://results.decisiondeskhq.com/national/2022-senate.

    “Florida Senate 2022.” 2022. Open Secrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary?cycle=2022&id=FLS2.

    Ioanes, Ellen. 2022. “How a surprising Democratic strategy may have staved off the midterm red wave.”  Vox Magazine, November 12. https://www.vox.com/2022/11/12/23454725/democrat-republican-maga-strategy-midterm-red-wave.

    Linksey, Annie. 2022. “Democrats spend tens of millions amplifying far-right candidates in nine states.” The Washington Post, September 12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/12/democrats-interfere-republican-primaries/.

    “Senate Election Forecast.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/.

    “Senate Election Forecast – Nevada.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/nevada/.

    “Senate Election Forecast – New Hampshire.” 2022. FiveThirtyEight. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2022-election-forecast/senate/new-hampshire/.

    “Wisconsin Senate 2022. 2022.: Open Secrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary?cycle=2022&id=WIS2.

  • The “Great Debate” Between College Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians Marks a New Era of Cross-aisle Collaboration at BU

    The “Great Debate” Between College Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians Marks a New Era of Cross-aisle Collaboration at BU

    By Ashley Pickus
    Photo: The presidents of (left to right) College Democrats, College Libertarians, and College Republicans

    A debate between Binghamton University’s political organizations sparked discussions about some of the most hot-button issues of the midterm elections. 

    On November 2, BU’s College Democrats, College Libertarians, and College Republicans hosted a debate on campus where conversations were raised regarding issues such as gun control, immigration, education, abortion, economic policy, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The debate format allowed a speaker from each club to take the floor for three minutes, with an additional one minute for rebuttals and questions and another minute for a closing statement. 

    Gun control was the first topic to be discussed. The question posed to the club representatives regarded the Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which resulted in a 6-3 ruling that struck down a New York law that required those seeking to carry a concealed handgun to show proper cause. College Republicans Vice President Logan Blakeslee affirmed the ruling, stating that the law was an infringement on New Yorkers’ second amendment rights.

    “I do believe that the fundamental right of all Americans is to own a firearm and especially for self-defense,” Blakeslee said. “I don’t think anyone needs a reason beyond self-defense to own a gun. I don’t think people should have to go above and beyond to assert their rights before the state.”

    The College Libertarians also spoke in support of the Supreme Court decision, while College Democrats President Chance Fiorisi shifted the focus away from the court case.

    “The issue is not the fact that the right is absolute, the issue is that we’re not focusing on the real concern,” Fiorisi said. “Weapons are evolving, but the regulations are not evolving. The thing is that this case is essentially allowing for the regulations to stay consistent.”

    Another topic debated was education, particularly regarding new policies that have been enacted in states such as Florida and Virginia that placed restrictions on teaching controversial topics, including gender, sexual orientation, and the Critical Race Theory. Siddharth Gundapaneni of the College Libertarians argued that it’s impossible to objectively teach education.

    “We have to give people options,” Gundapaneni said. “We have to allow people to do what’s best for themselves. The way to do that is by not forcing every single person to go to a one size fits all public school.”

    The College Republicans referred to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary schools. In support of the bill, Arthur O’Sullivan said that its main purpose is to provide insight to parents as to what their child is learning.

    “Parents have the right to know what goes on at their child’s school,” said O’Sullivan. “Once they know what’s going on, they should be allowed to decide, at least, whether or not their child should go to that school and be given that moral and historical education.”

    The College Democrats rebutted that Republican politicians such as Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, the governors of Florida and Virginia, respectively, are misrepresenting Democrats’ positions on these issues.

    “This is a concept that is taught in law school and classes in college,” Ryan Gaire said. “It is not a concept that is being taught in elementary, middle or high school.”

    With respect to the topic of abortion, most of the discussion revolved around the Constitution. 

    “There is nothing within the Constitution that says that abortion should be permitted across all 50 states at all times,” O’Sullivan said.

    The College Libertarians argued that the Constitution gives the right to self-ownership, and they proposed the question of whether the mother’s right to self-ownership or the life of the fetus should be prioritized. 

    “When we think about abortion, there are really two steps to it,” said College Libertarians President Shayne O’Loughlin. “There’s the termination of the fetus, and then there’s the eviction of the fetus. Libertarians are against termination, particularly against killing. So the answer that libertarians would go for, and the ethical answer, is that we believe that you should be able to evict the baby, but you shouldn’t be allowed to kill the baby, because otherwise, we have blood on our hands.”

    Celia Holden of the College Democrats began by responding to the argument that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution.

    “There are many controversies surrounding the fact that the word ‘abortion’ is not included in the Constitution, but neither is the right to privacy, electoral college, congressional districts, freedom of expression, or women, in general, reason being that not many of these things existed or were debated when the Constitution was first written,” Holden said. “Given the vagueness of the Constitution, we don’t have the luxury to have most of our Constitutional rights filled out.”

    She also argued that a child is not always a blessing.

    “It is not a blessing for a woman to be forced to co-parent with her assaulter and endure years and years of more abuse,” said Holden. “Furthermore, it is not a blessing for a woman with a serious medical condition to have to choose an unborn baby over her own life. With abortion outlawed many will suffer. We cannot trust the government to have a blanket best interests in mind for all citizens. That liberty belongs to the people. Times have changed and I think that we can now make the Constitution catch up.”

    A First of Many 

    The College Republicans and College Libertarians started up again this year after falling dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both clubs are now experiencing steady membership growth. This event was the first of its kind in several years, marking the start of a new era of collaboration between the partisan clubs on campus. 

    Happy Medium asked organization leadership to comment on this new collaborative spirit and any plans for the future. 

    I would say the collaborative energy is very strong. Regardless of politics, club members have been extremely kind to one another. I predict that our future plans may include more debates/discussions, but also uniting students for the sake of public engagement. 

    Logan Blakeslee, Vice President of College Republicans

    Since College Republicans are back in full swing, I have been super excited to begin collaborating with more political orgs on campus. We actually have the ability to hold formal conversations now and I want to take every opportunity for our clubs to engage in those discussions. Our future is one of collaboration and partnership, even when our congressional counterparts may not be so cooperative.

    Chance Fiorisi, President of College Democrats
    Delegates from the three organizations pose for a photo during an intermission.

    Ashley Pickus is a junior from Plainview, New York. She is double-majoring in political science and English rhetoric and minoring in writing studies. Ashley spends most of her free time following the current pop culture trends, watching television shows, or listening to music. If asked, she can explain the meaning of any Taylor Swift song and its significance. After graduation, Ashley hopes to find a job in the media industry.

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

    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)

    Read this article and more in our 2022 election edition, on campus now!

    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/

  • State Senate District #52: Lea Webb vs. Rich David

    State Senate District #52: Lea Webb vs. Rich David

    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.

    References

    “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.

  • Congressional District #19: Josh Riley vs. Marc Molinaro

    Congressional District #19: Josh Riley vs. Marc Molinaro

    By Tim Martinson
    Photo: left to right: Josh Riley (D) and Marc Molinaro (R)

    Read this article and more in our 2022 election edition, on campus now!

    With the upcoming elections in November for many political offices, it would help to know more about the various candidates in the races that Binghamton University students can vote for locally. For the federal elections to the U.S. House of Representatives, the newly drawn district maps place Binghamton University and the surrounding areas into the 19th congressional district of New York (“Elected Officials” 2022). The main candidates for this congressional race in November will be Republican Marc Molinaro, current Dutchess County executive, and Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney and a former congressional staffer. Molinaro previously ran in a special election for the 19th district on August 23, 2022 under the old district maps, which was caused by the incumbent Congressman Antonio Delgado (D) resigning to become Lieutenant Governor of New York. He narrowly lost with 48.8% of the vote to the Democratic candidate Pat Ryan, who received 51.1% of the vote (de Paredes 2022). Instead of running for the new version of the 19th district in the general election like Molinaro, Ryan is running in the 18th district. As a result, the new 19th district has no incumbent congressman running for re-election (Camera 2022a).

    Previously, Molinaro had run for New York governor in the 2018 election, losing to then-incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. Once Antonio Delgado had announced his resignation to become Lieutenant Governor, this particular House race became one of the more closely watched races for the November elections (Camera 2022b). Pat Ryan’s victory in the special election came as a surprise to many, with Molinaro being seen as the favorite in the race. Following the recent United States Supreme Court decision that repealed the right to an abortion, however, the midterm trend of the political party in power doing poorly (see article on page 4) has not been entirely the case in the other congressional special elections, with Democratic candidates overperforming the expected outcomes, such as winning in the special election in Alaska (see article on page 8). 

    In an interview with Happy Medium, Democratic candidate Josh Riley emphasized his support for the codification of the original Roe v. Wade decision, stating that he would co-sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act. In its current form as introduced in the 117th Congress, this legislation would prohibit “governmental restrictions on the provision of, and access to, abortion services” (H.R. 3755). 

    Riley also highlighted his support for campaign finance reform, reiterating his refusal to accept money from corporate political action committees, or PACs. He also stated his support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, which overruled earlier decisions that had allowed “prohibitions on independent expenditures by corporations” and bans on corporations “making electioneering communications” (“Citizens United”). 

    Riley stated that the biggest challenge facing the new 19th congressional district of New York is that “for a generation, this region has been overlooked and left behind by our politics and our economy.” When asked about how he would address the issue of inflation, Riley gave a twofold answer. In the long term, he would like to see manufacturing jobs returned to the United States and upstate New York, in particular emphasizing the manufacturing of semiconductors and electronics. Riley denounced rising costs as a consequence of policies from “professional politicians and the special interests” to ship manufacturing jobs overseas. He also cited a new lithium battery project coming out of Binghamton University; the “New Energy New York Project” was awarded over $63 million in a grant from the federal government, which “aims to turn the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions into the nation’s premier hub for lithium battery research, manufacturing and workforce development” (Potter 2022). In the short term, however, Riley gave his support for tax cuts for the middle class and allowing Medicare to cover hearing, dental, and vision for the elderly. 

    The campaign for the Republican candidate, Marc Molinaro, did not respond when reached out to for an interview, so the following information on his platform comes directly from his campaign website. On the topic of inflation, Molinaro’s policy platform indicates his support for “indexing the portions of the federal individual tax code not currently adjusted for inflation” and “working outside the tax code to increase the supply of critical goods… to reduce costs” (“Reducing Inflation” 2022). His platform also describes plans to lower property taxes, such as “limiting the ability of States to shift Medicaid expenses to local property taxpayers” and “restoring the full SALT deduction” (“Reducing Inflation” 2022). Additional plans include creating a commission to provide recommendations for a balanced budget in 10 years, “simplifying the tax code,” and “empowering those with low income” (“Reducing Inflation” 2022). Other key issues listed on Molinaro’s campaign website include addressing the opioid epidemic, mental health crises, and the energy crisis, as well as supporting U.S.-Israel relations, resources for veterans, services for seniors, and investment in and adoption of “cryptocurrency and the digital asset space” (“Marc’s Vision” 2022).

    Absent on Molinaro’s campaign website is the issue of abortion and reproductive health. However, according to WSKG, at a town hall in Endicott, Molinaro opposed most abortions after about seventeen weeks, stating that he does not want “government in the specific decision-making that women will have to make… But I also want to be respectful of the fact, at some point there ought to be some limitation, except in the case of life of the mother, rape and incest” (Golden 2022). Additionally, according to a PIX11 article, Molinaro has stated that he opposes a national abortion ban. The article describes that Molinaro “says he supports a woman’s right to chose [sic] with ‘thoughtful limitations’ on late term
    abortions” (Rosoff 2022). 

    Molinaro’s campaign website also describes the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, launched in 2015, “which seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations, and communities relate to our neighbors of all abilities,” particularly those with “intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities” (“Encouraging America” 2022). Molinaro’s plan includes “funding for Crisis Intervention Training and Mental Health First Aid,” greater enforcement of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act for those with special needs, and creating a “federal onboarding platform” for greater accessibility to federal programs (“Encouraging America” 2022). 

    If the results for the special election in August are any indication, the election for the 19th congressional district will end up being a very close one. This race between Josh Riley and Marc Molinaro is one such example of how Binghamton University students will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the state legislature and Congress this November. 

    Tim Martinson is a political science major from Merrick, New York, on Long Island. Tim has volunteered for several political campaigns in the past, such as his state senator’s re-election campaign in 2018. He is currently a board member of the Binghamton College Democrats and was previously a public affairs show host at WHRW. Tim was an intern political journalist at Happy Medium in Summer 2022. Tim has an interest in political history and likes to play video games and learn new things in his free time.

    References

    Camera, John. 2022a. “Molinaro pivots campaign to new NY-19 from old NY-19.” Spectrum News 1, August 25. spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/capital-region/news/2022/08/25/molinaro-shifts-attention-from-old-ny-19-to-new-ny-19.

    Camera, John. 2022b. “Molinaro is confident as Democrats eye candidates to oppose him in 19th district.” Spectrum News 1, May 3. spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/hudson-valley/politics/2022/05/03/marc-molinaro-reaction-antonio-delgado-lieutenant-governor

    “Citizens United v. FEC.” Federal Elections Commission. www.fec.gov/legal-resources/court-cases/citizens-united-v-fec/.

    de Paredes, Juan Garcia. 2022. “Democrat Josh Riley and Republican Marc Molinaro are running New York’s 19th Congressional District.” Ballotpedia, October 4. news.ballotpedia.org/2022/10/04/democrat-josh-riley-and-republican-marc-molinaro-are-running-in-new-yorks-19th-congressional-district/

    “Elected Officials & District Map.” 2022. New York State Board of Elections. www.elections.ny.gov/district-map.html\. 

    “Encouraging America to ThinkDIFFERENTLY.” 2022. Marc For Us. www.marcforus.com/_files/ugd/821665_822432395c444392b6137335e6ff1047.pdf

    Golden, Vaugh. 2022. “Molinaro discusses abortion, guns at Endicott town hall.” WSKG, September 1. wskg.org/molinaro-discusses-abortion-guns-at-endicott-town-hall/

    “Marc’s Vision.” 2022. Marc For Us. www.marcforus.com/policy

    Potter, Chris. 2022. “Big day for Broome County: Binghamton University awarded $63.7M in Build Back Better funds.” Binghamton Sun & Press-Bulletin, September 2. www.pressconnects.com/story/money/2022/09/02/binghamton-university-build-back-better-ppp-funds-lithium-ion-battery/65466752007/

    “Reducing Inflation and Our Cost of Living.” 2022. Marc For Us. www.marcforus.com/_files/ugd/821665_0f5b253f8a0842278da5ea0229d30043.pdf

    Rosoff, Henry. 2022. “NY-19 congressional race a tossup; what result could mean for House.” PIX11, October 9. pix11.com/news/politics/pixonpolitics/ny-19-congressional-race-a-tossup-what-result-could-mean-for-house/

    Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, H.R. 3755, 117th Cong. (2021). 

  • Gen Z Candidates for Congress are Proving that Grassroots Organizing Works

    Gen Z Candidates for Congress are Proving that Grassroots Organizing Works

    By Martin Dolan

    Read this article and more in our 2022 election edition, on campus now!

    That young people consist of an important, even election-deciding voting block is not a new concept by any means, but after the incredibly competitive and polarizing elections of 2018 and 2020, anticipating the voting patterns of Generation Z is proving to be an essential part of 2022 as well—on both sides of the ballot. 

    The teenagers and twenty-somethings that collectively make up the somewhat-vague categorization of “Gen Z”—between roughly 18 and 25 years old, more diverse and politically-minded than those of older generations—were raised side by side with internet technology, not quite remembering the early-Obama years of economic recession but coming of age in the post-Trump culture war. It’s largely understood that Gen Z, as young people historically have, lean disproportionately left in their voting habits, and whether or not Democrats can win key 2022 midterm seats will end up being a function of, among other factors, how well they’re able to mobilize young people. 

    While many characteristics of Gen Z’s demographics—they’re generally more racially diverse, higher educated, and less religious—seem to align more with the values of solidly blue, urban states, it’s going to be in Southern swing districts throughout Georgia, Texas, and Arizona that their presence will have the power to make the most tangible differences. Demographer William Frey has written extensively about a disconnect between the “brown and the grey” in these districts, where younger, diverse voters seem to be politically at odds with the older, conservative whites (Brownstein 2022). Younger voters have been particularly mobilized by the growing issues of access to abortion and restrictive voting policies, which have sprung up throughout red states in the south and midwest over the past election cycle.

    So, while Gen Z has its share of issues with current policies on both the left and right (a September NPR poll found that only 37 percent of Millennials and Gen Z believe Biden has improved the economy), they’ve proven themselves to be a powerful group that has only been partially tapped into by establishment politicians (Montanaro 2022). On the other side of the ballot box, though, a small but loud wave of young House candidates have stepped up to try and cater to this increasingly-slippery voter demographic. 

    Maxwell Frost is a twenty-five-year-old musician from South Florida who, despite his youth, is being pointed at by many leading Democrats as the man who will likely be the first Gen Z congressman. Running in Florida’s 10th district, which consists of Orange County and the western half of Orlando, Frost came from a background of activism and organization before eventually winning the contentious Democratic primary in the reliably blue district. Frost had no real political experience and didn’t finish his college degree, yet due to his grassroots mobilization of voters and personal story that connected to voters, he was able to come away from the primary in August 2022 with an unlikely win (Sotomayor 2022). Frost identifies as a strong, young liberal—his campaign webpage focuses on issues like access to healthcare, ending gun violence, and an attention to environmental causes—but he also wants to keep everything he does in the context of helping the working-class, which he came from and still feels an obligation towards, in a system that is increasingly stacked against them (Frost).

    In a September profile with the Washington Post, Frost opened up about the feelings of excitement but also of unbelonging that comes with being a young member of Congress. He reflected, somewhat jadedly, on a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after his primary win, yet was promoted by established left-wing figures of the party like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as a candidate who had the ambition, story, and grassroots supporters to make a splash at a young age. After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Frost became involved in activist movements fighting against gun violence throughout Florida and the US, lasting all the way to the March for Our Lives protests after another shooting in Parkland, Florida. It was his work on these campaigns that put him on the map of party figures on both sides of the aisle; Frost credits this organic platform to his success more than any presence on TikTok or the internet, which he leaves for his team to handle. And when opponents on the right criticized Frost as being too extreme—a socialist, an insult slung at many a young, progressive candidate—he waved them aside as not caring enough to know his story. He comes from a line of Cuban immigrants and refugees—working-class people who resettled in Florida to escape the authoritarian policies of their home country (Sotomayor 2022).

    So while technology and social media have certainly helped Frost in his ten-year journey from local activist to likely Congressman, it’s not fair to write him off as merely a product of Twitter or TikTok. Rather, like many in Gen Z, Frost has been able to use social media as just another outreach tool in his already strong repertoire of grassroots organization and campaigning, gaining support from voters young and old alike. 

    That’s not to say the GOP hasn’t been effective in mobilizing its own generation of young Republicans—quite the opposite. Karoline Leavitt, a twenty-five-year-old from Rockingham County, New Hampshire, has been growing a following among Republican voters in much the same way that Frost did in Florida. With experience working as both a staff member in the Trump White House and as a Director of Communications under New York Congressmember Elise Stefanik, Leavitt has built a reputation as a leader of a growing number of young Republicans rallying against the party “establishment.” Leavitt’s first political race, the primary earlier this year against Matt Nowers—himself only thirty-three and with a resume that includes working under Trump—found her winning with a slight 35 percent plurality, thanks in part to endorsements from a series of MAGA-aligned GOP figureheads like Stefanik and Ted Cruz (Sexton 2022). Leavitt’s whole platform aligns with the politics of those politicians as well, running a provocative campaign that called for, among other things, a re-evaluation of the integrity of elections following what she views as Donald Trump wrongly losing the 2020 presidential election (Leavitt). The theme of being against an establishment—the media, the Democratic Party, or the Republicans in power who didn’t do anything to stop Biden’s election—runs throughout the rhetoric of Leavitt’s campaign, with the implication that in her youth is a promise to be above the “politicking” of Washington’s corruption. 

    While Leavitt’s politics may be the opposite of Frost’s, her campaign has suffered many of the same criticisms, often based around her youth and perceived inexperience. An article from Washington Post reporter Amy Yang investigated some of these attacks on Leavitt’s campaign—ones that focused more on her platform than her politics. “She’s just a woke Gen Z-er,” says one attack ad, “[who] wants to bring her generation’s new vision to Congress. You know, mooching off her parents, running up huge credit card debt. Woke, immature and irresponsible” (Wang 2022). Leavitt, to her credit, has turned the negative press against her—harnessing these sorts of attacks from both the left and right and writing both off as attacks from the “establishment” she has been continuously campaigning against. And like Frost, while Leavitt’s social media platform has been both a benefit and harmful for her career (videos have surfaced on Twitter of her making crass jokes), the fact is that her campaign has relied on the internet more as a tool for spreading her message than a gimmick. Endorsements from older, more experienced GOP figures, as well as her own lengthy work experience, have benefitted Leavitt more than any TikTok video ever has. 

    When critics of young politicians on both the left and right try to write off younger candidates gaining momentum as gimmicks, that their progress has only come because of viral moments and the novelty of youth, it’s clear that there’s a large disconnect between the establishment and the young populations which are increasing in size in our country. And while young people on both sides of the aisle have used tools like social media to spread their grassroots activism and policy advocacy, dismissing their work as merely because of the internet is oversimplifying the way that political parties are beginning to tap into the cultural moment that is Gen Z. The internet helps—as it has helped campaigns for the past twenty-odd years, including Obama, Trump, and Biden—but in the current polarized political state of the country, it is even more clear than ever that success in politics requires friends in high places. Whether its Frost with Warren and Sanders or Leavitt with Stefanik and Cruz, getting elected in a House race is always a question of being connected to the right people, even when said campaigns are running on a platform of anti-establishment rhetoric that criticizes that sort of system in the first place. So in the future of elections, when Gen Z and subsequent generations undoubtedly become more and more of a force, it’s important to look towards young people for the future of leadership, but at the same time, to keep an eye on the older politicians who will be, in a way, choosing them. 

    Martin Dolan is a senior double-majoring in English and political science. He’s planning on pursuing a Master’s in English and working in publishing or journalism. He has also written for Pipe Dream and has published stories, essays, and reviews in literary journals, including a recent article in Alpenglow: Binghamton University Undergraduate Journal of Research.

    References

    Brownstein, Ronald. 2022. “What Will Happen in Georgia?” The Atlantic, October 7. www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/10/democrat-gen-z-voters-georgia-2022-midterm-elections/671676/.

    Frost, Maxwell. “About.” 2022. Maxwell Frost for Congress. www.frostforcongress.com/meet-maxwell.

    “Home.” 2022. Karoline for Congress. www.karolineforcongress.com.

    Montanaro, Domenico. 2022. “NPR Poll Shows Biden’s Approval Rating Is up but There Are Warning Signs for Democrats.” NPR, October 6. www.npr.org/2022/10/06/1126935638/poll-biden-improvement-voting-midterms-2022.

    Sexton, Adam. 2022. “US House Republican Leaders Endorse Matt Mowers in 1st District Race.” WMUR, June 6. www.wmur.com/article/kevin-mccarthy-house-gop-matt-mowers-endorsement/40204163#.

    Sotomayor, Marianna. 2022. “Maxwell Frost Is Figuring out How to Be Gen Z’s Likely First Congressman.” The Washington Post, September 3. www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/03/maxwell-frost-congress-generation/.

    Wang, Amy. 2022. “Who Is Karoline Leavitt, GOP Nominee for U.S. House in N.H.?” The Washington Post, September 14. www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/14/leavitt-new-hampshire-republicans-trump/.

  • Let’s Talk About Gerrymandering

    Let’s Talk About Gerrymandering

    By Emma Breuer

    Read this article and more in our 2022 election edition, on campus now!

    “Courts ought not to enter this political thicket.”

    –  Justice Felix Frankfurter, Colegrove v. Green (1946)

    Partisan gerrymandering is concerned with the redrawing of district lines in order to either split or consolidate voters in favor of whichever party holds the majority in state legislatures. “The actual process of political gerrymandering is done by placing voters in districts based on their political registration, voting history, turnout rates, and various other demographic factors that indicate how they might vote” (“Basics”). 

    Who Draws the Lines?

    The redrawing of state legislative and congressional districts is reserved for the respective state legislatures and happens once every decade following the constitutionally mandated Census. In most states, redistricting legislation is passed similarly to other legislation and must be approved by a majority vote from each legislative chamber: the lower state house and upper state house (Levitt 2020). Some states task their respective redistricting commissions with drawing the new lines. Each state varies in deadlines for redistricting plans, commissions, political involvement, and office holding, just to name a few.

    Gerrymandering and the Supreme Court

    Partisan gerrymandering has a long history and has been a heated subject of deliberation in both local courts and the Supreme Court. “In previous decades, it has invalidated redistricting maps and established rules to protect the voting rights of voters in general (in its equal population cases), certain ethnic and racial minorities (to enforce the Voting Rights Act and other provisions), and to protect voters from racially segregated districts (unconstitutional racial gerrymandering under the 14th Amendment)” (“Basics”). Understanding the history and precedent set by the Supreme Court will help to gain a comprehensive understanding of the legality of partisan gerrymandering. 

    In Gaffney v. Cummings (1973) the district court rejected Connecticut’s apportionment plan because of its unconstitutional partisan structuring resulting in extreme population variance in congressional redistricting. The final decision of the Supreme Court held that “Minor deviations from mathematical equality among state legislative districts do not make out a prima facie case of invidious discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment…A ‘political fairness principle’ that achieves a rough approximation of the statewide political strength of the two major parties does not violate the Equal Protection Clause” (“Gaffney v. Cummings”). 

    In Shaw v. Reno (1993), the Supreme Court determined that North Carolina’s reapportionment scheme, in which they aimed to create one very concentrated, small black-majority voting district, was unconstitutional. The Attorney General rejected the first reapportionment plan that packed minority residents into one district. North Carolina is covered by VRA (Voting Rights Act) preclearance, meaning that its state jurisdiction is barred from revising voting practices without approval from the Attorney General, which it promptly violated as it attempted to use the map. The new map that was drawn up created two majority-minority districts with one being especially gerrymandered. The 5 state residents that questioned the constitutionality of the plan alleged that the goal of drawing that district was to ensure more black representatives from North Carolina. The final decision concluded that while the reapportionment plan appeared superficially racially impartial, the districts drawn were covertly racially segregated, violating the 15th Amendment. Shaw v. Reno (1993) set a precedent for the unconstitutionality of racial gerrymandering. 

    In Vieth v. Jubelirer (2003), the Supreme Court echoed a similar decision to that of Shaw v. Reno (1993)—the Supreme Court did not reserve the rights or powers to rule on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. Unique to this case, however, were the Democratic voters who attempted to sue in federal court based on the notion that the Republican-majority state legislature in Pennsylvania “…had violated the one-person, one-vote principle of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution…” (Scalia 2003). The reapportionment plan clearly advantaged Republican representatives in Pennsylvania and created an unequal division of votes per district which deemed such a plan unconstitutional. A more pressing conclusion that came from this case, though, was the decision by Justice Scalia that the question of whether or not partisan gerrymandering was up to the discretion of state or federal courts had been answered. Such decisions lay solely in the hands of state legislatures. 

    In 2019, the Rucho v. Common Cause case reinforced an important precedent for partisan gerrymandering’s place in courts. Head of the North Carolina Senate Redistricting Committee, Robert Rucho (R), appealed to the Supreme Court regarding the district court’s rejection of North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map based on the map’s clear partisan gerrymandering. The opinion of the Court held that “partisan gerrymandering claims are not justiciable because they present a political question beyond the reach of the federal courts” (“Rucho v. Common Cause”). This decision lends itself to understanding how partisan gerrymandering plays a role in modern United States politics and government. By deciding that the constitutionality of partisan-based gerrymandering is not a matter that can be decided by federal courts, as this would impede state governments’ rights, the Supreme Court asserts that decisions thereof were up to the state legislatures, thus removing any sort of check on the legislatures’ power by the judicial branch.

    Partisan Gerrymandering in the Upcoming Elections

    On November 8, 2022, the United States midterm elections will be held based on district lines drawn following the 2020 Census. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are both registered Democrats. Democrats currently hold the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Vice President Harris, in her capacity as President of the Senate, has the power to vote in any instance when breaking a tie is necessary, which gives the Democrats the upper hand in legislation that cannot be filibustered. If able to successfully redraw district lines in their favor, especially considering how small the House majority is, Democrats may be able to secure the House majority  Insofar as the upcoming elections are concerned, partisan gerrymandering could very well prove to be a serious barrier between Republicans and Democrats gaining the majority.

    In late summer 2022, Democrats seemed optimistic about the upcoming election. However, such optimism has dwindled as recently as October 18, 2022, when President Biden’s approval rating sat at 40% (Lange 2022). Of the total 435 House districts, 220 of them are leaning towards Republican representation–giving Republicans a narrow advantage. 

    When considering how partisan gerrymandering might affect the upcoming elections, looking at voter behavior in the median district illuminates some promise for Democrats to maintain the House majority. Of the 435 congressional districts, 215 of them lean towards Democrats, meanwhile 220 districts lean towards Republicans, meaning that Democrats will need to secure votes in an additional three districts if they hope to maintain the House (Cohn 2022). Insofar as the Senate is concerned, it is unlikely that Democrats will observe a win in both the House and the Senate, as gerrymandering has an ineffective impact in the Senate; however, it is not impossible in the House. 

    In a simulation done by FiveThirtyEight, ten congressional districts were decided to be the most likely to determine which party controls the House. The results show that nine out of the ten districts show Republican-tilting, despite Republicans’ average predicted success rate in these districts only being 60/100. These findings further portend that “The 2021-22 congressional redistricting process preserved a largely Republican-leaning status quo,” which does not appear to be too promising of a Democrat lead (Rakich 2022). Considering the propagation of Republican-leaning status quo in district line redrawing, a Democratic edge in this upcoming election does not seem likely. In fact, even less promising are the right-leaning results of the 10  “tipping-point districts,” of which 7 are predicted to vote Republican.  

    A Final Note

    All things considered, which party will maintain the majority in the House seems to be up in the air, although the Republicans look likely to swing the majority. Despite post-2020 congressional redistricting being in favor of Republicans and a declining approval rating of President Biden, a direct assertion of who will carry this midterm election seems to rest closer to election day. The influence and power of partisan gerrymandering in elections is palpable in our current political climate as well as historically; but what is most important to keep in mind when considering how redistricting affects elections is population density and other redistricting metrics employed to generate the most promising outcome for each respective party. Partisan gerrymandering has proven capable of giving certain parties a leg-up in Congress, but perhaps in light of this election, Americans may witness a shocking turn of events at the polls this year. The political agendas of Democrats and Republicans, increased voter consciousness, and the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade may allow for an unpredictable voter turnout. Failed attempts by the Democrats following the 2020 Census to successfully gerrymander the state of New York seem to imply that they might have to get creative this upcoming election and explore strategies outside of partisan gerrymandering.

    Emma Breuer is a junior majoring in philosophy, politics, and law and minoring in writing studies and history. She intends to receive an MBA from Binghamton University and go to law school afterward. Emma hopes to work in business law, but is open to other concentrations. She is currently a tutor at the Writing Center on campus. She is also the Treasurer of the Binghamton Law Quarterly and has written for the BLQ since last year.

    References

    “Basics: Partisan Gerrymandering.” Redistricting Online. https://redistrictingonline.org/basics-gerrymandering/basics-partisangerrymandering/.

    Campisi, Marion, Tommy Ratliff, Stephanie Somersille, and Ellen Veomett. 2022. “Will this year’s gerrymandering mean Democrats lose control of the House?” The Washington Post, September 22. www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/22/gerrymandering-midterms-democrats-republicans/.

    Cohn, Nate. 2022. “Gerrymandering Isn’t Giving Republicans the Advantage You Might Expect.” The New York Times, September 30. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/30/upshot/midterms-gerrymandering-republicans.html.

    “Gaffney v. Cummings.” FindLaw Cases and Codes. caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/412/735.html.

    Lange, Jason. 2022. “Biden approval polling tracker.” Reuters Graphics, October 18. https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-BIDEN/POLL/nmopagnqapa/.

    Levitt, Justin. 2020. “Who draws the lines?” All About Redistricting. redistricting.lls.edu/redistricting-101/who-draws-the-lines/.

    O’Connor, Sandra D. 1993. “Shaw v. Reno.” Oyez. www.oyez.org/cases/1992/92-357.

    Rakich, Nathaniel. 2022. “The 10 Districts Most Likely To Decide Control Of The House.” FiveThirtyEight, October 17. fivethirtyeight.com/features/house-tipping-point-districts/.

    “Rucho v. Common Cause.” Oyez. www.oyez.org/cases/2018/18-422.

    Scalia, Antonin. 2003. “Vieth v. Jubelirer.” Oyez. www.oyez.org/cases/2003/02-1580.

    “U.S. Senate: About the Senate and the Constitution.” Senate.gov. www.senate.gov/about/origins-foundations/senate-and-constitution.htm.

    “What are midterm elections, and why are they important?” 2022. U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy. it.usembassy.gov/what-are-midterm-elections-and-why-are-they-important/.