Ben Parker / Sun Staff Photographer

Tracy Mitrano, Democratic candidate for the 23rd Congressional District of New York, hosted an open forum at the Southside Community Center in downtown Ithaca on Friday.

September 30, 2018

Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 Emphasizes Her Appeal to College Students at Town Hall in Ithaca

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Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 hosted a town hall on Friday afternoon, inviting questions from community members from Tompkins and some surrounding counties. Questions mainly focused on domestic issues, including infrastructure, reproductive rights and the economy.

Ryder Kessler, Mitrano’s campaign manager, kicked off the event by energizing the group of about 25 with pointed remarks at incumbent Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), saying that Mitrano’s campaign will not be able to “outspend” Reed, but will be able to “compete in all the media that matters.”

Reed, according to June Federal Election Commission reports, has received over $2 million and has over $1.2 million in cash on hand. Mitrano, in June, had $193,963 in receipts and less than $8,000 in cash on hand.

Since then, Mitrano announced that her campaign has “raised in excess of $750,000,” to audience applause. The next quarterly reports will come out later in October.

Historically, the 23rd district has been heavily Republican; out of the 11 counties, only one — Tompkins County — voted for the democrat candidate for Congress in the 2016 election. Receiving less than half of the vote, Mitrano also lost Tompkins County in the democratic primaries in June.

Mitrano emphasized her appeal for college-aged voters, saying that she is a proponent of zero-interest student loans and cannabis reform.

“I’m for the legalization and regulation of cannabis,” said Mitrano, who publicly discussed her recreational use of marijuana and cocaine in an Insider Higher Ed blog post dated Dec. 7 2014. However, this initiative is not listed in the formally cataloged “priorities” on her campaign website

The Democratic nominee also took swipes at Reed and the effect of his voting record on the district.

“He sees an issue, he jumps on it … and then he never follows through on it,” Mitrano said, citing Reed’s lack of policy consistency and emphasizing a lack of follow-through on issues relating to the environment to argue that Reed is running against his own record.

Mitrano, who worked at Cornell as the director of information technology policy from 2001 to 2014, touted her experience in information technology as part of her inspiration for running for Congress, following allegations of Russian interference in the 2016.

This resonated with one audience member, who asked the candidate about technology and  broadband access in surrounding counties.

“We don’t have cyber resources,” the woman said. “I have a child who needs to do homework online … I don’t have access.”

People without broadband access in modern-day society are, “by definition, marginalized in this society,” Mitrano said. “It is the role of the government to bring the proper infrastructure that the people need.”

According to Mitrano, Rep. Reed recently announced his pro-net neutrality stance, adding that Reed had done nothing to support net neutrality prior to this election season. According to the Finger Lakes Daily News, Reed began promoting net neutrality in 2017.

“It immediately struck me that [the district] has fallen behind because of the lack of attention that Reed has paid to it in many areas,” Mitrano told The Sun in a previous interview. “But the first thing that really hit me was because it’s falling behind we do not have connectivity to every farm, every home, every school and every business.”

Ithaca and Corning, is an economic “bubble” that owes its neighbors, Mitrano said. “Let’s start to think of ourselves as one district,” saying that the resources in Ithaca, such as those relating to remediating environmental issues, would be helpful in other regions of the district.

Mitrano advocated for a single-payer system, also known as “Medicare-for-all,” saying that it would drive healthcare costs down. “Repeat after me,” Mitrano told the crowd. “A single payer system is not socialism.”

A single-payer system, according to Mitrano — who is endorsed by the Working Families Party — is favorable for small business owners because it limits costs for businesses.

Abortion and women’s reproductive rights were also discussed. One audience member — a campaign volunteer from Tioga county — expressed concern about winning voters in a district where many are anti-abortion.

“Not one religious denomination or faith gets to dictate the laws based on their belief,” Mitrano said, advocating for “accessible” and “affordable” women’s health care.

Standing yards from a mural reading “Immigrant Rights are Human Rights,” Mitrano said the “anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric that we have coming out of the White House is truly a profound embarrassment and disgrace to this country.”

Mitrano served on the Ithaca Town Planning Board for many years. According to Mitrano, the Board has experts that could be useful for other, surrounding counties.

“I don’t expect you to agree with everything I propose,” Mitrano told the town hall. “At the end of the day, I hope that we agree on enough that you support me.”

Mitrano, the Democratic nominee, will challenge Rep. Tom Reed for the 23rd congressional district seat on November 6. Reed has held the seat since 2013, and held the 29th district seat since 2010, after which redistricting made the region fall under the 23rd district.