Michael Arcuri, the Democratic candidate for New York’s 24th Congressional seat, addressed students and area residents last night in Uris Auditorium. Arcuri has served as Oneida County’s District Attorney for the last 13 years and teaches a course on constitutional law at Utica College. The 24th district includes much of the area surrounding the city of Ithaca, but most of the Cornell campus and the town of Ithaca lie in the 22nd district.
Among other issues, Arcuri discussed budget cuts affecting student loans, access to health care in New York and around the country, energy independence and the war in Iraq.
“My major domestic focus would be to ensure that we get quality healthcare in this country,” Arcuri said, adding that 46 million Americans lack access to adequate medical care.
Arcuri devoted much of his speech to furthering the idea of the government’s role in “protecting those who need to be protected.”
“We need to stop balancing our budget on the shoulders of those who need us most,” he said, referring to cuts in student loans and the millions of Americans without basic health insurance.
Arcuri intends to draw on his experience in government to help bring change to those most in need.
“The thing I am most proud of as a DA is the Child Advocacy Center we established in Oneida County,” he said in an interview. “Our role as public servants is to make it easier for people who have been abused, people who have been neglected to get the help they need from the government. That’s what our Child Advocacy Center did.”
Turning to the war in Iraq, Arcuri called for a withdrawal of American troops, saying “this is not a popular war, and it is the wrong war.”
Arcuri also implicated the war in limiting America’s domestic and foreign policy options and apportioned part of the blame for the federal government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina to the National Guard’s commitments in the Middle East.
“I think one of the problems for our nation right now is that we are so overextended in Iraq that it is very difficult for our military to get engaged in other parts of the world like Darfur, like Lebanon,” he said.
Addressing conflicts in the Middle East and beyond, Arcuri called on the U.N. to play an important role in bringing the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan to an end. Arcuri also stressed the importance of the United States’ alliance with Israel.
“Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East,” Arcuri said. “Israel has a right to exist, and we need to support that as a country. They have a right to exist, and the people in the Middle East and around the world need to accept that.”
Cornell students have volunteered for Arcuri’s campaign in recent weeks, participating in phone-banking and door-to-door canvassing activities.
“He seemed like a genuine guy, and I think that came through in his speech because he talked on a lot of issues that are important to us,” said Adam Gay, president of the Cornell Democrats.
Throughout his campaign, Arcuri has focused on the need he sees for a change in the direction of the federal government and the country as a whole.
“It’s a very competitive race, and Mike is a great candidate with very strong ties to the community, stemming from his time as District Attorney,” said Shai Akabas ‘09, co-president of Students for Massa and Arcuri, a group that is working to elect Arcuri and Eric Massa to Congress.
“We need to change the course of our country,” he said. “We need new leadership, and that’s why I’m running for Congress.