Samuel Northrup, Editor-In-Chief
As part of the lead-up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, The Tangerine sat down for a brief interview on campaign issues with Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Utica running for Congress. Brindisi is challenging incumbent Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) for New York’s 22nd Congressional District. Tenney, who was contacted multiple times to participate in a similar interview, declined to speak to The Tangerine.
Why did you decide to refuse corporate PAC money, especially given your opponents sizeable “warchest?” Has it posed any challenges for you?
I decided not to accept corporate PAC money because, when I get to Washington, the only people I want to worry about are the residents of the 22nd District; I think we need to have a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United.
We’re not as well financed as my opponent with her super PACs, but we’ve received a large number of individual, small-dollar contributions which have helped us stay competitive in this race.
How do you see your time in the New York State Assembly translating to success in Congress?
I would say that during my time in the Assembly I’ve always been independent and never afraid to take on my own party. But I also do well bringing Democrats and Republicans together. When I get to Washington, I don’t care if it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea, if it’s a good idea, I’m going to support it.
While it hasn’t been a cornerstone of your campaign, you have mentioned minimizing the impact of student loan debt. How do you plan on doing that, especially given the presence of Utica College and other collegiate institutions in the district?
First, I would call for a hearing over the Education Department because our current education secretary (Betsy DeVos) is scaling back regulations that the Obama administration put in place that capped the fees lenders charged. I’d also push for a law to allow borrowers to refinance their federal loans and also make student interest rates lower. I think we also need more loan forgiveness plans.
Bringing jobs to Upstate New York has been a priority at the state level, but how do you see being able to encourage job growth and business interest at the federal level?
One of the first things I would push for is an infrastructure package, which would create 15 million new jobs across the country. In order to keep businesses here and attract new ones, we need to make investments in our roads, bridges, waterways and sewer systems; we need to upgrade our energy grid to encourage more green jobs; and we need to expand broadband in underserved communities. I’d also focus on tax cuts that help small businesses, not tax cuts that are helping the major Fortune 500 corporations.
Will the job interests of young people also be factored into any of your economic plans if elected?
I would focus on entrepreneurial programs and work to incentivize entrepreneurs and make it easier for them to have access to loans and capital. I would also work to promote our area’s growth industries, such as cybersecurity and unmanned aerial research.
A major issue surrounding this election has been the president’s immigration policies and curtailing the number of people entering the United States. How would you respond to and/or work with the Trump administration’s immigration plans, especially given the heavy presence of refugees in the Utica area?
First, I would speak out against the fear-mongering that’s going on and work towards comprehensive immigration reform. To me, that means immigration that is tough but fair; it includes enhanced border security and allows law-abiding immigrant families to come out of the shadows. I’m a big supporter of our local refugee center, and unfortunately, the president’s policies on refugee resettlement hurt places like Utica, which have had successes resettling refugees into our community.
What’s your pitch to young, college-age voters?
I would say I think young people, like many of us, are sick and tired of people in Washington not working together to solve some of the big problems our country is facing. Whether its student loan debt or the environment, gun violence or net neutrality, we need people in Washington who can solve some of these big problems. Unfortunately, I feel that our current representative is not equipped to do that. I’m always going to look for ways to bring people together, not divide us.