DEBATING ISSUES — Candidates for the 22nd Congresional District debated last month at the Beeches Conference Center. From left, Independent Martin Babinec, Democrat Kim Myers and Republican Claudia Tenney debated issues including education, the Affordable Health Care Act, immigration and the heroin epidemic. The election is Tuesday. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Congressional race near boiling point

Published Nov 4, 2016 at 4:10pm

It’s a hotly contested three-way congressional competition in the sprawling 22nd District that encompasses eight counties, including all of Oneida and Madison counties. 

Independent Martin Babinec of Little Falls, Democrat Kim A. Myers of Vestal in Broome County and Republican Claudia L. Tenney of New Hartford are vigorously vying for the seat being vacated by Republican Richard L. Hanna.

Lawn signs supporting one of the three hopefuls have sprouted up in large numbers. Fliers about the contest are routinely appearing in mailboxes, and television commercials touting a candidate or painting a poor image of one are plentiful. 

More than $11 million has been spent to elect the next federal representative from the 22nd District on Tuesday. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The hopefuls have sparred over such issues as jobs, business accomplishments, taxes, voting records, who’s conservative and liberal, and political system outsider versus insider.

Though the political party registration numbers favor Republicans in the district that comprises a large chunk of Central New York, including the cities of Rome, Utica, Binghamton and Cortland, the race is rated a toss-up by the Washington-based Cook Political Report. The self-described non-partisan group analyzes elections and campaigns for the House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, governors and president, as well as American political trends.

In the April presidential primaries, the district’s results included Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination while Bernie Sanders captured the Democratic nomination.

The three hopefuls had spent a total of more than $4.3 million as of Oct. 19, according to the Federal Election Commission. There’s plenty of interest beyond the 22nd: outside groups with deep pockets have already spent more than $7.3 million trying to influence the outcome of next week’s balloting.

Tenney, a member of the state Assembly, had to win a three-way primary contest in June to get the Republican nomination. She was not the first choice of many establishment Republicans. Tenney defeated George Phillips and Steven Wells in the GOP primary,

This was not the first time she bucked her own party. Tenney narrowly lost to Hanna in a GOP primary in 2014. Tenney is more conservative than Hanna. 

Hanna said he will not support Tenney in the race for his seat. In the Republican primary, Tenney defeated the candidate Hanna endorsed. 

She says she’s been fighting the establishment throughout her political life. 

She has stood firm with Donald Trump while her opponent Myers is with Hillary Clinton.

​Myers, a Broome County legislator, did not face a primary challenge for the Democratic endorsement.

Though running as an independent, Babinec, entrepreneur and former corporate executive, has said he’ll caucus with the Republicans if elected. He is self-funding his campaign and has spent more than $2.4 million of his own money to win a job that pays $174,000 a year.

There’s much speculation about whether presence of Babinec, a newcomer to politics, in the race will tip the outcome to Myers or Tenney or maybe he can even pull off a major political upset — however unlikely — and win. The GOP wants to retain the seat as part of its strategy to keep majority control in the House while Democrats see the Hanna seat as a way to move closer to a majority.

Tenney also has the Conservative Party line. Myers also has the Working Families Party line.

Independent candidates don’t often win in the House of Representatives. The last successful candidate was Bernie Sanders, who first joined Congress as a representative from Vermont in 1991.

The 22nd District covers all of Oneida, Madison, Cortland and Chenango counties, and part of Broome, Herkimer, Oswego, and Tioga counties.The county with the largest population — and the most enrolled Republicans — in the district is Oneida.

Martin Babinec

Babinec, 61, founded TriNet Group, Inc., a human resources software company in California, in 1988 and served as its chief executive officer and president until 2008 and later as chairman. He serves on the firm’s board of directors today.

Babinec relocated his family in 1999 back to his native Little Falls, where he and his wife Krista raised their three children. He commuted cross-country for the next 10 years.

After selling his company, Babinec started a nonprofit, Upstate Venture Connect, to connect entrepreneurs to expertise and funding. Additionally, Babinec co-founded StartFast Venture Accelerator, which invests in and helps guide promising high-growth startup companies each year in Central New York.

Babinec holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Shippensburg University. After graduating he began his career as a human resource manager with Navy Exchanges, where he served as a civilian supporting Navy communities.

Kim A. Myers

Myers, 59, was born and raised in Binghamton, and grew up working in the family’s business, Dick’s Clothing and Sporting Goods. 

She is a former small business owner, served on the Vestal Central Board of Education for 18 years, including eight years as president. She is currently a Broome County legislator. 

After graduating from SUNY Cortland, Myers returned home to grow her family’s business with her siblings and raise her own family of six children with her husband of 36 years. She lives in Vestal.

While working with her siblings to expand the family business, Myers started her own children’s clothing and educational toy store in Binghamton. 

Myers is an active community volunteer, serving with Lourdes Hospital, the Child Hunger Task Force, Binghamton City Schools Foundation, Vestal Rotary, and other community activities.

Claudia L.Tenney

Tenney, 55, is a three-term state Assembly member. 

She was the first to sponsor a bill to fully repeal the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013. The SAFE Act contains a number of firearms regulations.

She is co-owner and legal counsel to Mid-York Press, Inc., a commercial printing and manufacturing firm in Chenango County. It was started by her maternal grandfather in 1946.

Prior to being elected a state legislator, Tenney had been an Assembly staffer. She’s also been a radio and television host. 

She grew up in New Hartford, where she still lives, and graduated from Colgate University and the Taft College of Law at the University of Cincinnati. Her son, Trey, is in the Marine Corps.

She is an active member of the community and serves on numerous boards and volunteer organizations. She is also a member of the advisory board of the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate.