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Campaigns in a Pandemic: Candidates in 22nd Congressional race adjust to changing political climate

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BROOME COUNTY (WBNG) -- You have a handful of local and state races to decide in the June 23 primary.

While that's only about a month away, the general election is coming up in November. Six months down the line, the effects of the pandemic are still unknown, as politics are not immune.

"With everything going on with the health concerns, with the economic concerns, the American political system still is important and elections are critical to the republic," said Republican 22nd Congressional Candidate George Phillips.

Today, the coronavirus pandemic can feel like a plague. The economy, life and politics--all put on pause.

"It's a whole new world right now whats going on," said Republican 22nd Congressional Candidate and former congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

Broome County Elections Commissioner Dan Reynolds predicts some changes come November. "There's costs involved, there's precautions that have to be taken so we have to think about that now," he said. "Hopefully were doing better in November than we are now."

Before the pandemic, 2020 was a big election year. "With the presidental election there will be a heavy turnout," said Reynolds. He told 12 News, more than 87,000 Broome County residents came voted in the last presidential election back in 2016.

Some big races on the ballot this November include Broome County Executive, Family Court Judge, 122nd assembly seat, county legislature seats and the hotly contested race for the 22nd congressional district seat.

Reynolds said, "You don't see a lot of campaigning going on right now, you would have expected to see a lot more this time of year."

12 News spoke with all four candidates. Former Congresswoman Claudia Tenney and incumbant Anthony Brindisi said they've put their campaigns on the backburner amid the crisis.

"We're not running any ads were just doing facebook posts," said Tenney. Brindisi said he's also steered clear of TV ads, "Not running any ads right now, I think what's important is for people to hear from their public officials."

Liberitarian 22nd Congressional candidate Keith Price and Phillips also put their ads on hold as we approach the final stretch of the race for the 22nd. They told 12 News it isn't easy reaching voters.

"I don't have the ability to talk directly to people anymore and that seriously hurts a third party candidate," said Price.

Phillips explained the need to find other avenues to reach people. "We're just looking at different means to connect with voters."

Instead of the rallies, fundraisers and hand shaking, each candidate has to get creative to spread their message.

"Not being able to have face-to-face contact with voters, but there are unique ways you can still be able to connect with voters through zoom calls," said Brindisi. Now they hope it proves to be enough to get people to the polls when election day arrives.

"If it surpresses voter turnout, Americans who deserve a voice won't have a voice," said Price.

Tenney also says she's concerned about how many people physically show up to the polls come election day. "This is going to be a different year it's going to be a different kind of campain, we're concerned how we're going to get the votes out."

With the state of the pandemic up in the air for November, only one thing is for certain.

"It's going to be an interesting election no doubt about it," said Reynolds.

He says they're already thinking about protective equipment for staff and distancing during voting. The Broome County board of elections plans to hold meetings throughout the summer to adjust to changing conditions.

Chloe Vincente

Chloe Vincente is an Evening News Anchor at 12 News.

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