Aug. 5—WATERTOWN — As she heads into the final weeks of the Republican primary race for New York's 24th Congressional District, Rep. Claudia L. Tenney said she's feeling confident in her campaign's strength.
The congresswoman, who has represented a Southern Tier and Central New York district in Congress, is seeking her third term now in the new NY-24, which covers western Jefferson County and extends to Niagara County. In an interview Wednesday, she said voters in her new district continue to voice concerns about the economy and ever-growing inflation.
"People are really concerned by far the most about inflation, the cost of gas," she said. "Employers are worried about finding new employees, and people are really feeling the weight of inflationary costs in their wallets."
Rep. Tenney said it's clear the U.S. economy is in recession, and is experiencing "stagflation," in which prices increase while wages stagnate and overall economic activity decreases. She said the Biden administration's recent position that decreasing gas prices is some indicator of an economic revival is pure spin.
"We're in a gas tax holiday right now, and there's still record-high gas prices," she said.
The congresswoman said the biggest issue is energy production. She criticized President Joseph R. Biden for a "war on fossil fuels," a criticism that has echoed through Republican ranks for months. The president has said no such war exists, and has blamed oil and gas companies for keeping production low, neglecting to act on thousands of existing oil drilling leases they already possess and capitalizing on the high price of oil and fossil fuels as a result.
On Wednesday, Rep. Tenney introduced her "American Energy is Global Security Act," which would push New York state to reverse the statewide hydrofracking ban by withholding some federal grant program funding. In a statement announcing the legislation Wednesday afternoon, she said New York's ban on hydrofracking is "baseless" and implemented without "firm environmental evidence."
New York banned fracking officially with a Department of Environmental Conservation order in 2015, and an act of the state legislature in 2020. Proponents of the ban have pointed to the potential for groundwater and air contamination from hydrofracking sites, and have said that extracting and processing more fossil fuels will only worsen global climate change.
Opponents of the ban have pointed to the need for fuel, and the comparably low carbon emissions fracked fuels emit to their next alternative, coal.
Rep. Tenney said she is not against renewable energy, but believes it should be a part of a wide array of methods of energy production that includes fossil fuels.
"Right now fossil fuels and emission-free nuclear power are all things we need to look at to maintain the prosperity and the reliability that we need," she said.
If Republicans were to retake control of the House of Representatives in 2023, Rep. Tenney said domestic fossil fuel production will be a major focus for House Republicans.
The Senate recently moved to pass the bipartisan "Honoring our PACT Act," which would have set aside millions in funding for veterans and military service members who were victims of military burn-pit use during their deployments. The legislation passed the House in March, without Rep. Tenney's support, and after some delay was passed by the Senate on Tuesday.
Rep. Tenney said she voted against that bill because it included a mandatory spending provision, which she said would have allowed more federal spending than originally agreed to in the federal budget without requiring that money actually be spent on care for veterans.
"The Democrats threw in a mandatory spending provision, which did not require them to spend this on veterans," she said. "They could have allocated the money and then not spent it on veterans, which is what I was concerned about."
Rep. Tenney's son is a Marine officer and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and she said she supports the basic premise of burn-pit legislation, but doesn't support Democrats' procedural choices in bringing the bill to pass.
"Lets focus on the veterans and do bills that are focused on the veterans, not government pork that the Democrats are trying to add to bills," she said.
She is running for the Republican nomination for NY-24 against Geneva-area businessman Mario J. Fratto. The race turned bitter early on, with Mr. Fratto attacking Rep. Tenney for votes he says are "unconservative" and for what he says is a lack of history in the communities that make up NY-24.
The congresswoman does not live in NY-24 as of now. The congressional district she represents only includes a small portion of the new NY-24.
Rep. Tenney has represented large portions of NY-24 during her time in the state legislature, and said there's no question that she understands the region.
"These are national seats, they're seats about leadership," she said. "I have a national profile of leadership. I have strong endorsements from across the district, in every county, from various leaders and groups."
She announced Wednesday that she's been endorsed by the Republican state Senate and Assembly leaders, local Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, and a number of other local Republican officials. She continues to have the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump and Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville.
She said she once met Mr. Fratto, who asked for her to endorse him in his campaign against Rep. Chris L. Jacobs, R-Orchard Park, in the previous makeup of NY-24 between redistricting battles.
She said she believes Mr. Fratto, who is relying on an "America First" policy agenda, has "bitten off more than he can chew," in running against her, and said she continues to hear strong encouragement from across the district.
"I stand for what I say I do, and I think that's why we have a strong effort," she said. "I'm looking forward to getting past the primary and on to the general election, where I think we're also going to do very well."
The winner of the primary election on Aug. 23 will go on to the general election in November to face Democrat Steven W. Holden Sr., an Army veteran and business owner from Camillus.