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Broome County Republicans select new chairman

Benji Federman was elected as Broome County Republican Committee Chairman this month.
Vaughn Golden
Benji Federman was elected as Broome County Republican Committee chairman this month.

The Broome County Republican Committee elected Benji Federman as its new chairman this month. His predecessor, Bijoy Datta stepped down after 10 years in the role.

WSKG reporter Vaughn Golden, who covers government and politics, spoke with Federman about how he plans to lead Republicans in the pivotal Broome County.

Vaughn Golden: This is WSKG News. I'm Vaughn Golden. Earlier this year, the Broome County Republican Chairman Bijoy Datta stepped down after 10 years in the role. I'm joined by Benji Federman, who was elected by the county committee to take over that role earlier this year. He previously worked under then State Sen. Fred Akshar, and has served as the GOP Committee Vice Chair Benji, thanks for joining me.

Benji Federman: Vaughn, thanks for having me in the studio today. 

VG: Of course, so I spoke with your predecessor, as I mentioned Bijoy Datta a few weeks ago after he announced he was stepping down after his 10-year tenure as Broome County Republican chairman. One of the things he was fairly proud of in that interview about his tenure was this kind of strategy of keeping Broome Republicans out of sort of more national, more divisive issues that have divided Republicans, especially, you know, during the Trump years, and even before that. He said this is something he hopes the county committee would continue prioritizing. How much would you intend on keeping on that track?

BF: Yeah, absolutely. That is huge to our local success. National politics is divisive, just by its nature. And so, ensuring that we're kind of separating that national divisive politics with our local candidates are very capable qualified local candidates. That benefits our local Republican team and committee, absolutely.

VG: Yeah, and is there anything stepping into this role, you think the county committee needs to change in terms of strategies around whether it's handling issues, recruiting candidates, or any of these other aspects that are kind of relative to you, as chairman?

BF: Sure. So one of the things I think we've done really well as a committee is, again, recruiting qualified, capable candidates, and then ultimately running great grassroots campaigns, getting out to these communities, knocking on doors, making phone calls. Right down the road as our campaign headquarters, and I've spent many, many hours there, you know, do it again, doing those grassroot efforts, but I think the committee needs to grow at the same time. And I think that's something that I offer, kind of as a younger person, you know, bringing new energy to the party. And, you know, ultimately recruiting new committee members diversifying our committee and ensuring that we have plenty of people there who are passing petitions, and, you know, being the ground stoppers and, and helping these folks in the areas where we need to elect these folks.

VG: What do you think plays into that and recruiting candidates to growing the committee?

BF: Yeah, sure. I think it's relationships. You know, one of the things that I've, you know, one of my bigger strengths, I would say, is relationship building. I've traveled this county many, many times under my boss. We've been, you know, the northern portion of Broome, eastern portion of Broome in the City of Binghamton, all these different areas, and I think spending time in the community getting to know the needs of the community and then ultimately, you know, recruiting these candidates is is a lot easier when you're spending time on the ground, you know, in these areas. 

VG: What kind of challenges do you anticipate facing as chairman over, say, the next two years or so? Obviously, having another congressional race another state Senate race and presidential race happening in 2024? 

BF: Yeah, so I mean, it's no secret that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Broome County. I think Republicans have done a really good job at winning races where we are outnumbered. I think it's speaking to these swing voters, independent voters, making sure that we're on message and talking about the issues that matter to Broome County residents. You know, I would argue public safety, you know, affordability and economic opportunity are those, those issues that people care about.

VG: Looking ahead. We have a race for Broome County district attorney this year. The incumbent Mike Korchak announced he's running as a Republican. He was elected on the Libertarian line last time around. Are you able to say are Republicans going to throw their support behind him this time?

BF: Well, I think I would say that we are going to have a strong Republican candidate at the end of the day who's going to be victorious in in November. That's that's my thoughts there.

VG: Is the committee prepared to back somebody in the primary though?

BF: I don't anticipate that the committee will be making any endorsements. The committee will not be but I'm open to the conversation there. If the committee feels, you know, we have 120 committee members. I seek their opinions often and, you know, I would seek the committee's input on that.

VG: As a separate issue, the statewide Republican Party is preparing to elect a new chairman now that Nick Langworthy has been elected to Congress in the 23rd District. From what I understand a few people have put their names out there as potential candidates former attorney general candidate Michael Henry, former congressional candidate Colin Schmitt, Assemblyman Chris Tague, Rockland County GOP Chair Lawrence Garvey, number of people, you know, at this point, are you currently supporting anybody in particular?

BF: No, I haven't made a formal endorsement. I've met and had conversations with the people that you mentioned and others and really just looking forward to hearing from from more of those candidates and, you know, their plan for how they want to lead the party forward.

VG: What would you like to see in a statewide GOP chair though?

BF: Well I, I value people who show up. I think that the person needs to travel the state and really get into these communities and listen to you know, our committee members, me as a chair, to kind of listen to our needs, and, you know, deliver on on some of the commitments that some of them have been making in terms of fundraising, you know, investing in data, making sure we're speaking to the right people during campaign time.

VG: And do you think that carries on kind of attack that Langworthy took on the role or use want to see somebody mix things up a little bit more?

BF: No, I think Chairman Langworthy did an outstanding job. I think we came really close with Lee Zeldin this year as a gubernatorial candidate. You know, Chairman Langworthy was in Binghamton many, many times, I'm sure you had some face time with him at some point in his travels. You know, his energy was was great. And I think we need to kind of replicate that, but also keep moving the party forward in terms of fundraising and, and other grassroots efforts.

VG: And you're what, you mentioned this earlier, you're, what 29, 30 years old?

BF: 28.

VG: So as someone in I guess we could say, kind of the upcoming generation of political leaders, definitely, relatively speaking, one of the younger folks in politics, what do you think Republicans need to do locally to appeal to younger voters? I know, this is a pretty broad idea, but I guess where do you start?

BF: Sure. So I think, as we were talking about earlier, cutting through national divisive politics, we have outstanding local Republican candidates here. And I think, you know, those need to be our influencers in our community, for lack of a better way to say it. I think we need to improve the party's brand, I think that kind of coincides with, with what I just talked about. And really, building relationships. Again, politics is all about relationships and so it starts with me and building my network of people. And I'd like to think that I've already been successful at recruiting some new young people to the Republican Party in my time as the Broome County Young Republicans chair, really just kind of growing our ranks a little bit and getting more people involved and, you know, basically saying it's okay to be a Republican. You know, we care about the issues that matter to young people at the end of the day, safer communities, economic opportunity, and affordability. Those are the things that we focus on and are trying to get more people involved and care about those issues.

VG: Alright, I've been joined by Benji Federman, new chairman of the Broome County Republican committee. Benji thanks for joining me. 

BF: Thanks Vaughn.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.