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Binghamton residents, lawmakers react to Biden’s State of the Union address

Residents and activists gathered at Atomic Tom's in downtown Binghamton to watch the president's speech Thursday night.
Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Residents and activists gathered at Atomic Tom's in downtown Binghamton to watch the president's speech Thursday night.

During his State of the Union address Thursday, President Joe Biden highlighted job growth, dropping inflation rates, and investments in infrastructure and local economies. He also promised to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and vowed to stop any effort to raise the retirement age.

In Binghamton, a group of residents and activists gathered Thursday night to watch the address. The watch party was organized by progressive groups Empire State Voices and Citizen Action of New York.

‘I think he struck a good note’

Maria Martinez, the executive director of Empire State Voices, organized the watchparty at Atomic Tom’s in downtown Binghamton. She said it was an opportunity to bring residents together, and a chance to connect the presidential election to the competitive race for New York’s 19th Congressional District.

Empire State Voices and Citizen Action are involved in campaigning against Republican Congressman Marc Molinaro in support of his Democratic challenger Josh Riley.

“We wanted to bring folks together to really have the opportunity to listen to everything that [the Biden] administration has been doing over the last few years,” Martinez said. “But also an opportunity to really highlight and contrast what our current congressman here in the district has been rallying against.”

After the address, Binghamton resident Luke Day said he was pleased by the speech overall.

“I was most hoping to hear about Gaza, the border and Social Security and Medicare. And I think he struck a good note on all chords,” Day said.

Anna Warfield said she was glad to see Biden go on the offensive during the address.

“I was kind of impressed that he actually took more of an offensive position towards his opposition, which was nice to see,” Warfield said. “I feel like that's not his M.O., he's pretty like a placid candidate and president.”

Nikita Robinson, who also attended the watch party, said she was surprised that House Speaker Mike Johnson stood and applauded several times during the speech.

“Regardless of what party anybody's in, they should be working together,” Robinson said. “That's what all of our representatives should be doing. They should be working together to represent all of us. It's frustrating to see our representatives play the partisan games and not put us first.”

‘More political rhetoric’

Republican lawmakers had their own reactions to the address. In a statement shortly after, Republican Rep. Nick Langworthy, who represents Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties, called Biden’s speech “divisive.”

“He failed to take ownership of his disastrous policies and instead tried to place the blame on House Republicans,” Langworthy wrote. “He single-handedly created a crisis at our borders, crushed our economy, crippled the American energy sector, plunged us deeper into debt, enabled violent crime in our major cities, and made it harder to raise a family or own a business in the United States.”

Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro, who represents parts of the Southern Tier, including Binghamton, Ithaca, Cortland and Oneonta, said he agreed with Biden that the federal government must invest in manufacturing and growing the economy.

“What we heard tonight, though, is a continued political speech that the president has delivered some of before,” Molinaro said. “And when I was hopeful that we would have heard real outreach to Americans with whom he might disagree, we heard more political rhetoric.”

Molinaro added that he felt Biden was not truthful about the current state of border security.

“I think an honest leader would stand before the American people, acknowledge any misstep, and then commit to solving the problem in an honest and earnest way,” Molinaro said.

Several New York races are expected to play a role in whether Republicans keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives. That includes the 19th district, where Molinaro will face Democrat Josh Riley in his race for reelection.

Corrected: March 14, 2024 at 4:59 PM EDT
This story has been updated to reflect that Empire State Voices is a progressive policy-focused organization and does not endorse candidates.