May 23, 2020 at 4:45 AM
While the coronavirus pandemic has understandably garnered headlines over the past several months, 2020 is still an election year.
It is only a month until primary elections are set to take place Tuesday, June 23. While other events have been moved backward by COVID-19, including New York’s presidential primary, the primary election date has held firm.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, announced he would run for re-election back in February. He is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination to retain New York’s 22nd Congressional District.
On the Reublican side, two challengers remain — former Congresswoman Claudia Tenney and Binghamton educator George Phillips. Two other Republican candidates, Steve Cornwell and Franklin Sager, dropped out in January and March, respectively.
With the shadow of COVID-19 over everything these days, Phillips and Tenney have seen their focus on particular campaign issues highlighted by the pandemic.
Both of the Republican candidates have spoken about the need to better handle health care crises like the coronavirus pandemic.
Tenney said systematic upgrades are necessary to improve the state and federal bureaucracies tasked with handling health crises. She said many were heavy on spending taxpayer dollars and light on finding solutions.
The former congresswoman and state assemblywoman also leveled criticism at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s handling of the pandemic, citing better outcomes in other large states like California, Texas and Florida, which have fewer cases and fewer deaths.
“There must be a federal investigation into New York’s disastrous policy of placing COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes across the state,” Tenney said.
Phillips said the country needs better emergency plans for medical supplies, testing and contingency plans for the economy. He said his priorities should he take office in 2020 would be the economy, jobs and developing a vaccination for COVID-19.
“Before the coronavirus, I wanted to go to Congress to use my expertise through my work for the Jack Kemp Foundation and Reclaim New York to work on economic issues and health care,” Phillips said. “Those priorities remain but are more urgent than ever.”
For the month of April, New York posted a 14.5% unemployment rate in figures released Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. While it wasn’t the worst rate — Nevada (28.2%) and Michigan (22.7%) well outpaced other states — it highlighted the need for job creation as stay-at-home orders are slowly lifted around the nation.
Phillips said his primary focus would be getting the economy in Upstate New York going again if elected.
“In Congress I will fight for continued tax and regulatory relief for small businesses, a dynamic market of choice for health care, and a plan to rein in the national debt,” he said.
Tenney also has eyes on the economy and mentioned her work with President Donald Trump to reduce regulations on small businesses and cut taxes. Trump tweeted an endorsement of Tenney in February.
The one-term Congresswoman described herself as an advocate for small-business owners, veterans, seniors and students in Upstate New York. She cited legislation she supported or cosponsored to ensure a raise for active duty service members, preserving Social Security and guaranteeing pre-existing conditions would be protected under Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Like the president or not, I forged a strong working relationship with him through my aggressive advocacy and deep care for our community,” Tenney said.
Both Tenney and Phillips tout conservative credentials when asked how they stack up with their Republican competition.
Tenney cited endorsements from the New York State Conservative Party, as well as Republican congressional figures like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority WHIP Steve Scalise and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville. She identified herself as a battle-tested candidate with primary and general election wins.
“My primary opponent is a perennial candidate who has been running unsuccessfully for Congress for 13 years,” Tenney said. “I soundly defeated him in 2016 in his third attempt where he finished a distant third in the primary. He has never been elected, never taken a serious vote and has no proven record, only empty promises.”
Phillips in turn touted his efforts going door-to-door in the community and Tenney’s 63% rating with the American Conservative Union, a Conservative advocacy group. He said her rating with the advocacy group was one of the lowest of any Republican in Congress; Tenney ranked 5th out of nine Republicans in New York’s Congressional delegation in 2018.
“Tenney’s failure to represent constituents through refusing to do town halls — and now refusing to debate — along with her “F” rating with conservatives for supporting liberal policies like transgender military surgeries are what sets us apart,” Phillips said.
State residents can register to vote at voterreg.dmv.ny.gov/MotorVoter.