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Congressional Corner With Anthony Brindisi

U.S. Representative for New York's 22nd congressional district Anthony Brindisi
Official Portrait 116th Congress

The fall election is just two months away.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democrat Anthony Brindisi of New York’s 22nd Congressional district speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded September 2nd.

Alan Chartock: Here we are on the Congressional Corner with one of our favorite people, Anthony Brindisi, a first term Democrat from New York's 22nd congressional district. So, Anthony, how goes the race?

Congressman Anthony Brindisi: The race, it goes well. It'll go a lot better in the next 60 some odd days when the election is over, but right now, we're out there, we're campaigning. It's a little different this time because I'm also in office. So we're still responding to a lot of constituent calls. And obviously, the pandemic is still raging across the country, people are still out of work. And we got to make sure we're focused on job number one, which is doing the job of the elected representative for the 22nd district, but the campaign goes.

So, I just watched Richie Neal win his election by a lot of votes in the Frst Congressional District of Massachusetts, where I live you. He won by anywhere from 18 to 20 points. Yeah, he is my congressman. But I got the feeling from talking to both sides on this thing, that this is really, really exhausting. I mean, it really knocks the stuffing out of you doesn't it?

Campaigns can take a lot out of you. You know, they're tough on families, especially when you're being attacked. My opponent’s running a lot of negative attack ads right now. And, you know, they're not the nicest tone. And then you have young kids, and they'll ask your questions about what they see on television in these attack ads. So you really have to explain a lot to them. It can take a lot out of you. But you know, I think the voters see through a lot of the stuff that a lot of these negative attack ads, and hopefully we'll just focus on the positive stuff. I think it's always very telling when you look at the ads that the candidates are running. I can tell you in my race, the ads that I'm putting up, are talking about my record on issues like bringing jobs back from China, supporting American manufacturing, focusing on the work I've done around veteran suicide and other issues that affect veterans, talking about health care and the support I've been giving to our farmers who have been struggling through this pandemic. And then you have on the other side, a false narrative, a series of lies and distortion. And I hope people recognize that when someone goes negative like that, they probably don't have much of a record to run on, and the only strategy that they can employ is attack your opponent.

When you were kid, did you ever play the game of Battleship?

Of course. When I was a kid, I still play it, Alan.

This campaign thing is a little like Battleship isn't it? They say something, you gotta respond. And whether you like it or not, you have to be thinking all the time. You don't want to make a mistake.

You do, you do and we find that we have to respond to a lot of the false attacks that my opponent puts up. You know, she's going after me saying I want to defund police, which is absolutely not true. Really trying to put this this narrative out there, but it is kind of like battleship. I joke because my 13 year old and I love battleship. So we play that game often and he beats me. But this campaigning can be compared a lot to Battleship, I think.

Well, maybe you should hire him on as a consultant if he can beat you in Battleship. Maybe he can help you with all this.

Look in my family, I have the best consultants that I know that whatever, whatever I do in the campaign, I always I'll always check with them to get their feedback first because you want to make your family proud of you.

Funny, that's how it happens in my house too. Okay. Let's talk a little bit about some of the substantive stuff. How is the NY-22 coming back and getting along with coronavirus?

NY-22 is struggling just like I think the country as a whole is struggling. We're struggling with unemployment, there's still a number of people are out of work. There's a lot of industries that have not come back yet or have not come back to the extent that they were prior to the pandemic. You have a lot of small family farms that are still struggling, dairy farmers, and other farmers who were hit by the downturn in the economy. You have schools trying to reopen right now, you have parents, myself and my wife included who are certainly a little uneasy about schools opening back up and want to make sure that our kids are safe and our educators and support staff are safe. So there's a lot of concern out there and I think we got to be laser focused on really trying to get another stimulus package passed to really address the public health crisis, which is continuing in our country, to address the economic fallout, and make sure that the stimulus that we do pass is geared to towards those communities, those most vulnerable communities who have struggled during this pandemic, and that's something that the House did way back in May, by passing the Heroes Act. The Senate waited two months before they even came around to deciding they wanted to do another stimulus package, the Senate GOP, and now we're in this impasse while the American people are still struggling. We got to get something done.

We're talking to Congressman Anthony Brindisi. So is that going to happen? In other words, are we at the point now, where both sides think it is in their interest to make sure that the American people get some kind of relief here?

But I think that's why it's really it's up to members like myself, rank and file members, to really speak loudly to leadership on both sides that this is not a time for partisan games. We all understand there's an election coming up, and there's gonna be plenty of finger pointing and blaming to go around. However, this is a global pandemic. This has affected places like New York harder. We got to come together and address the needs of the American people. We got to make sure that we're providing funding to our state and local governments to help with the losses that they are sustaining because of coronavirus. We got to make sure that we have a national testing strategy and we're doing more testing so we can end the public health crisis that continues. We got to get assistance to people who are still out of work, food assistance to people who need food. Right now, these are the things that are most important and politics should take a backseat to helping the people that we are elected to represent at a time when they have the greatest need.

Governor Cuomo keeps talking about needing the help from the federal government to help New York State, which is way behind. What do you think? He's calling on the congressional delegation to make sure that that happens. Are you able to?

We're working at it. You know, we did pass the Heroes Act back in May, which I supported in the House. That would provide between New York State and local governments, that would have provided about 100 billion dollars in relief so it would have helped the governor with his budget concerns. It would help every county in our state, every city in our state, every town and village in our state, and it would have provided additional money for our school districts which are struggling right now with a whole new set of expenses because of coronavirus. So we're pushing for that very hard. I would say that the delegation as a whole is pretty united, that we need to get state and local assistance. Because we know what's going to happen. The areas I served in the state legislature for a number of years, I know the areas that are going to get cut, they're already getting cut, education, health care, infrastructure projects, aid to localities. That money is all going to be cut, because the state is going to be forced to make some tough decisions. And we are due here because we were the epicenter of the pandemic for a long time, you know, 450,000 cases in New York State. We really need the help. And that's what I'm pushing for and what we need to get done.

We have very little time, but I wanted to ask you one question. You mentioned sending your kids to school. Yes or no?

Well, our school district is not going back for in person instruction just yet. So they're going to start off on a remote basis. Our daughter's entering fifth grade, our son's going into eighth grade. So they're going to be remote. Of course, my wife and I both work full time. So we're juggling that right now and trying to set a schedule where we can be on top of their learning, but we would be very concerned, I think, and we do have some concerns sending them back full time right now as we see some of the things that are happening in other states where the reopenings are taking place.

We're talking, and we have been talking, and will continue to be talking to Representative Anthony Brindisi, my friend, a first term Democrat from New York's 22nd Congressional District. Anthony, thanks so much for being with us. We'll be back soon with another installment.

Thank you.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.