It took three months after Election Day for Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) to be declared the winner, but the 22nd Congressional District now finally has representation in Congress. Tenney is serving her second term in office, after being unseated in 2018. She reflected on the frustrating legal process over the last few months, as well as the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
Tenney led by more than 28,000 votes on election night. But after absentee ballots were counted, that number dwindled to just 109 votes by the time a judge declared her the winner, earlier this month. Challenges in court revealed significant errors were made by some of the boards of elections in the district, including the Oneida County Board of Elections, which failed to process more than 2,400 voter registration applications that were filed on time through the DMV. That led Oneida County’s two elections commissioners to resign. But Tenney cautions placing the blame squarely on them.
“When you have an overburdened government agency, like the boards of elections were, in the midst of the pandemic, with all the issues that arose with some of these conflicting laws and new laws thrown into place, with people who didn’t have the resources, didn’t have the training, you saw this terrible process that took three months of what should’ve been done in November,” Tenney said.
And a lot has changed in those few months. Then-President Donald Trump claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him because of alleged voter fraud. More than 100 Republican representatives objected to certifying the presidential results in some swing states. Tenney, an early supporter of Trump, said she doesn’t have an objection to Joe Biden being president, but she doesn’t know how she would’ve voted on certifying the results.
“On one hand, I’m a constitutionalist,” Tenney said. “I feel like constitutionally, when the board of elections certifies, and there’s nothing presented to make you turn the other way, that would’ve driven me to vote against objecting. But then there were so many cases where we didn’t really get to the bottom of it and the cases seemed questionable. But at that point, I really would’ve been torn.”
Tenney said she may have objected to the results in Pennsylvania. She condemned the January 6 insurrection, led by some Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol, following a rally where Trump told supporters to march to the Capitol, while Congress certified the election. Tenney said she supports an investigation into what happened, but did not blame Trump.
“To say that the president could’ve stopped these people, I think a lot of them probably weren’t ever Trump people, they were determined to go in there, and some of them were probably Trump people that are off the rails,” Tenney said.
Tenney would’ve voted against the second impeachment of Trump, saying fiery language is used on both sides and protected by the First Amendment. Some of the insurrectionists at the Capitol were also QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe in false claims, like the world is run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) lost her committee assignments for sharing some of the conspiracy theories on social media. Tenney said Greene might have deserved a censure rather than losing her committees.
“They kind of made a martyr out of her because now her district likes her even more now,” Tenney said.
Tenney said she and Trump have both been victims of the media and a lot of people don’t know where to turn for accurate news, so they go to social media.
Looking ahead at upcoming legislation, Tenney said the COVID-relief package before Congress has a lot in it that’s not targeted towards COVID relief.
“I do think it is irresponsible to put out something like that when we are in a crisis,” she said.
Tenney wants the relief package to focus on helping small businesses, getting schools opened and providing direct aid to local governments. People are already calling her office about stimulus checks. Tenney was also recently named to both the small business and foreign affairs House committees.