CAMDEN — Claudia Tenney spoke to a myriad of issues when answering questions during a town hall Tuesday, her first since taking congressional office.
More than 100 people gathered at Nicole’s in Camden for the hour-long event. It first began with remarks from Tenney, R-New Hartford, which led into around 30 minutes of her answering written submitted questions off note cards.
“This is a really exciting and important day that I’ve been wanting to have for a long time,” she said.
After explaining why she chose Camden as the location — she was impressed after stopping there one time during a motorcycle ride —Tenney’s own remarks started with why she chose to run for Congress in the first place.
Since taking office, Tenney said she wants to see funding restored for the Legal Services Corporation. On education, Tenney said the state’s method of funding schools is a problem due to unfunded mandates. And with President Donald Trump, Tenney said there have been certain measures she has disagreed with, such as elements of the president’s proposed “skinny budget” when it was introduced.
During her remarks, Tenney was particularly critical of the Observer-Dispatch, saying the newspaper’s mission is “to try to defeat an independent voice.”
Nevertheless, Tenney said her own mission while in Congress has been in the interest of New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which covers Oneida, Madison, Chenango and Cortland as well as parts of Broome, Herkimer, Oswego and Tioga counties.
“This district is very important to me. I’ve lived here my entire life,” she said.
She added, “How do we bring NY-22 back to where we should be? How do we bring NY-22 back to greatness? It’s not going to happen overnight.”
The congresswoman answered around 20 questions, which were chosen at random. Here is how she responded to some of the topics:
When asked what steps she would take to reduce health care costs, Tenney’s initial answer was met with a loud, mixed response.
“Well first of all, repeal Obamacare,” she said.
Regarding options for low-income women should the Graham-Cassidy Bill pass, Tenney said there are more federally funded facilities in the community than Planned Parenthood equivalents, citing more than 13,000 throughout the United States. She said an increase in funding by $1 billiion for federal services “more than make up” for the services provided by Planned Parenthood.
Tenney said raising the minimum wage hurts small businesses, allowing bigger corporate entities that can afford the increase to take over a market.
Likewise, the congresswoman said a Medicare-for-all plan would have a similar impact.
“I think it would destroy our small business community forever,” she said.
Regarding her position on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (more commonly known as DACA), Tenney said she believes there is an issue with DACA and that the government should not continue the program.
Rather, she said there should “protect and make a pathway for legalization for the people that are here.”
She said she’s considering co-sponsorship of the Recognizing America’s Children Act.
“I think that immigrants have actually been a big help to our community in a lot of ways,” she said. “I think they need to come through legally, though.”
At the close of the event, Deerfield resident Valarie Lutz — who said she identifies as an Independent — said she sees the congresswoman as “very well-rounded” with her life experiences and how she approaches certain issues. She said she believes Tenney operates more like an independent rather than a staunch Republican.
“She’s obviously very intelligent and articulate,” Lutz said. “She was very in-depth with her answers. She didn’t just give you a one-line answer.”
Sarah Reeske, who is an organizer for Indivisible Mohawk Valley, said she came into the event thinking that it would be a campaign rally and not a town hall. She left feeling the same way.
Reeske said Tenney could have let the public speak the questions themselves and allowed more dialogue instead of commanding the conversation by only reading questions off note cards.
“I don’t feel like she felt the emotion from people,” Reeske said. “You really hear from people when they get to ask the question. You hear the emotion in their voices. They get to share a story with it.”