NY-22 Minute: Claudia Tenney Appears Poised to Run Again in 2020 By Luke Perry
Claudia Tenney may run for Congress again, barring a job opportunity emerging. Tenney has not ruled this out and is “looking at all the options.”
Tenney’s first appearance on Talk of the Town (WUTQ in Utica) in months was reminiscent of her former weekly spots, which often focused on her re-election campaign. Tenney believes Rep. Brindisi has been ineffective during his initial time in office and recently claimed the previous Congress, which she was part of prior to losing to Brindisi in 2018, brought in “record amounts of money for our region.” (26:42 mark)
Tenney said Brindisi has the “single-most left wing voting record” in the Assembly and is now “back peddling” on everything he voted for. The “cabal,” including Democrats and Republicans, cast him as moderate, but “there is nothing moderate about his voting record.”
Tenney claimed Brindisi is “introducing my old bills” and undertaking “mostly plagiarism” in copying her letters to committee chairs and the president, though did not provide specific examples. “He is literally copying what I did,” Tenney said, “so what’s new and innovative about him?”
Since leaving office, Tenney attended the State of the Union by President Trump, and is likely under general consideration for an appointed position in the administration or federal government. After the 2018 election, Tenney claimed her dream job was U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, but the acting U.S. Attorney in that position, Grant Jaquith, became permanent in January.
This month Tenney resumed Tweeting from her personal Twitter account (@claudiatenney) following a three month hiatus. The account still describes her as a “Member of Congress representing #NY22.” Tenney called for “strong Republican leadership to encourage the best candidates in 2020” and “strong voices” to fight “growing calls for Socialism.” The latter mirrors the President’s rhetoric and reflects the national electoral strategy for Republicans heading into 2020.
Tenney is probably the preferred choice of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who recruits candidates and provides financial and staffing support. Tenney is an experienced campaigner and officeholder, and a proven winner, who maintains widespread name recognition and fundraising ability. Tenney also lost by just over 1 percent in a predominately Republican district.
On the other hand, 85 percent of incumbent House Republicans were reelected in 2018, even though Democrats gained 40 seats and now control the chamber. Tenney was one of just 27 GOP House incumbents (out of 202) to lose last November. First term incumbents have consistently been reelected in NY-22 (ex. Richard Hanna), and prior to 2011 redistricting, in NY-24 (exs. Michael Arcuri, Sherwood Boehlert).
It remains to be seen if other NY-22 Republicans choose to run. Tenney would be a formidable primary opponent, though her two primary challengers in 2016, Steve Wells and George Phillips, combined for 58 percent of the vote.
Endorsement of Tenney by local Republican Party committees, particularly in the Northern part of the district, is uncertain. Tenney received full endorsements in 2018, including Oneida County, who did not endorse her in 2016.
Dave Gordon’s primary challenge to Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente has prompted controversy and division among Republicans. Gordon, who is supported by Tenney, made personal allegations toward three elected officials, including Picente, “but provided no proof or evidence.”
If Tenney runs, the timing of her announcement will be intriguing. Brindisi declared exceptionally early in 2016 to enhance name recognition and fundraising. Tenney could follow suit, but for a different reason- to provide a counter public narrative as Brindisi settles into his new position.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College
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