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Danks Burke, Webb debate in Binghamton ahead of state Senate primary

The two Democrats, seeking the party’s nomination to run in the general election for the newly drawn 52nd state Senate district discussed an array of policy issues at a debate Wednesday night.

Temple Concord in Binghamton hosted the debate, which covered a variety of policy areas including housing, climate change mitigation, economic development funding, abortion access and poverty.

Leslie Danks Burke, an Ithaca attorney and educator, and Lea Webb, a former Binghamton city councilmember, share similar views on several topics such as expanding and protecting abortion access in the Southern Tier.

The candidates did seem to show some distance in their positions in a few areas, including priorities for economic development and job creation, as well as addressing homelessness.

In response to a question on homelessness posed by former Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, Danks Burke said she wants to address associated factors like mental health and access to financial services.

"What our state needs to do is invest in those preventive measures like education, like social services, like mental health availability, like creating banking opportunities, low-income loans for first-time homeowners and first-time renters,” Danks Burke said.

Webb placed more emphasis on building and expanding “wraparound” services, centers where people can seek temporary housing, as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment in the same location. Webb also wants to make sure the state supports building out more affordable housing.

"It's important that we have key investments in establishing more affordable housing, so that we actually have places where people can live, and not only just live for a few weeks, but have much more stability,” Webb said.

Primary Day is Tuesday, Aug. 23.

The winner of the primary will go on to face former Binghamton Mayor Rich David, a Republican. David left office at the end of 2021 having reached his term limit.

The newly drawn district presents an opportunity for Democrats. According to analysis from the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York via its Redistricting and You tool, 60.5% of voters cast ballots for Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

A full recording of Wednesday's debate is available here.

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.