The race for central New York's 22nd Congressional District, which spans from Binghamton to Utica, is heating up. Incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna and Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney are competing head-to-head for the Republican Party's nod in June's primary election. WRVO's Gino Geruntino recently spoke with Tenney to learn about why she's decided to challenge Hanna.
GG: Why is it that now is a good time to run for Congress?
CT: Well, it's a great year to run as a Republican, particularly in a Republican primary. As a state assemblyperson and a businessperson, I went to Albany saying that I would be not one of the status quo, and that I would fight for our individual rights and our freedoms. And especially as a small business owner, to make New York a more business friendly state and to try to make inclement changes in that way. But I feel that I ran in 2010, the same year as Richard Hanna and we both ran as fiscal conservatives, and I lived up to my word. I am the top rated conservative in New York, year after year. Richard is now the third most liberal member of Congress, in the Republican Congress.
GG: When you first ran for Assembly in 2010, you and Richard Hanna had similar philosophies.
CT: He said he was a conservative. I saw him at all kinds of tea party rallies and other events as we campaigned. And he said that he would vote against any increase in taxes, he would vote against the debt ceiling, he would vote not to spend, all those things. Well, he tends to brag about how, 'Well, I explain my vote.' And I find it interesting on the last debt ceiling vote, he explained it by saying, 'Well, we had to increase the debt ceiling because we couldn't risk our children's futures.' And then the next sentence said something like, 'We've got to stop spending. We're spending into oblivion.' But within that same week that he voted to raise the debt ceiling, he put in a program with [Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand that was literally a multi-billion dollar federal top-down spending program for education. So how can you do that in the same breath?
GG: You've been a big supporter of the Second Amendment. Can you talk a little about that?
CT: I took an oath. So did Mr. Hanna. So do we all, to uphold not only the New York state constitution, but our federal Constitution. The Second Amendment is a right. It's preserved in our Bill of Rights. Some people may not like it, but the Second Amendment was not so we could hunt and fish. The Second Amendment was to prevent us against excessive government and the control of government and the control of guns to prevent tyranny. Because that's what's happened throughout the history of man and the history of government.
GG: And do you believe that your strong support for the Second Amendment will help your campaign here in central New York and the Southern Tier?
CT: It's popular throughout the entire 22nd District. I mean it's popular in upstate New York, and I say popular; people believe in it. It's part of who we are as a culture. And I think it's an extremely important issue for upstate voters. You know, Mr. Hanna has a decent record with the NRA, but Gun Owners of America have scored him low over some of the restrictions that he's imposed on gun rights. He doesn't seem to be a real strong advocate for that, or really anything. I don't really see him standing out on too many issues, other than a very, very strong pro-choice, pro-abortion stance.