By Kiyanna Noel
The Political Science Department hosted a conference to discuss voting in the midterm election in the Alumni Conference Room at Angell College Center Oct. 13. There were four SUNY Plattsburgh alumni panelists ranging in professions at the front of the room. Chair of the Political Science Department Dr. David Lake started the discussion by asking each panelist to introduce themselves and then proceed with the discussion of the hostile environment behind voting and political freedoms to an audience of 18 students and faculty.
On the far left sat David Rodriguez DeCancio. DeCancio graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1993 and has now become the Special Assistant Speaker to the New York State’s 100th Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and works on the Town of Bethlehem Board. He ran last year and was successful in flipping a seat to the Democratic side. He got involved in politics on behalf of his family because he wanted to give back to his community.
Next to him was Kimberly Davis, who graduated in 2006. Davis has been the appointed Clinton County Treasurer for nine years now. Davis grew up in a Republican household and expressed the difficulties in being the only Democrat in her family as well as the struggles of being a woman in politics. Her father was the town Republican chair who hadn’t spoken to her about politics, but she is a representative of women in politics. She also co-founded North Country Women United which is a committee dedicated to getting democratic women into office at State and Local levels in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties.
To the left of her was Matthew Veitch who graduated in 1994. Veitch is now the Saratoga Springs Supervisor. In 2007, he was elected to the board of supervisors and has been in this position and he was elected to the chair of the board in 2015. Veitch flipped a seat onto the Republican side. His family has gone back generations in Saratoga Springs since the 1920s. His grandfather served in city hall, his brothers served in the police force and his father-in-law was a state senator, so it was always instilled in him to give back to his community through politics.
The last seat on the far right was Christopher Rosenquest who graduated in 2000. Rosenquest is the 29th mayor of the City of Plattsburgh as well as the first Black mayor of Plattsburgh.
He ran for office in 2013 and came in second before officially becoming mayor in 2021. Before this he had served for five years on the Clinton County Legislature.
The discussions for the night stressed the importance of each vote as well as being expressive without being defensive or disrespectful of others political beliefs. The death threats and messages sent with malicious intent because someone is representing a certain political party. Davis then explained the difference in advertisements depending on the level of government and how after a certain point it is best to stay off your social media. She also told a story about how she felt threatened and was followed.
“As you go up into different levels of government it gets uglier and uglier and uglier, so I certainly experience it more as a woman,” Davis said. She went on to say the safety of politicians shouldn’t be at risk because of their political beliefs. This was one of the examples as to why it is preventing people from running for government.
DeCancio spoke about the importance of knowing the difference between having good policies and having good politics. He used an example of how he was campaigning for better roads and how this idea was lost because of control issues on both sides.
“Good policies help people, but good politics doesn’t always help some people. It might actually hurt some people,” DeCancio said.
Rosenquest brought up gun control policies and how one’s stance on it shouldn’t be a determining factor of if they are Republican or Democrat.
“If I say I am a concealed cart carrying Black mayor who carries a gun, which I do have my concealed gun carrying permit, I do, Democrats would be like ‘What the hell is wrong with you? You belong on the Republican side.’ But if the Republican side said we actually need common sense gun control laws, he’s going to face the same backlash as I am,” Rosenquest said.
“Run to your party when you’re running, but then govern from the middle right because you have to represent everybody,” Veitch said.
When it comes to governing, the panel agreed that it wasn’t about who is right and who is wrong, it’s about what is right for the community, not which political belief is in control.
Davis brought up the statistic of how many times a woman would have to be asked to run for office as opposed to how many times a man would have been asked to and what the reasons behind those may be.
“In general, a man needs no ask or one ask to run for office, but it takes a woman in general five asks before they run, most of the time because they don’t think they are qualified,” Davis said. Davis expressed different ways to increase women’s presence in politics by advocating for one another and making sure that their voices are heard in each room.
There was also paperwork at the back of the room for absentee ballots and to register for the 2022 elections if students hadn’t already.