Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took questions from some of her constituents in the Rochester area on Friday evening.
She made a stop at Monroe Community College for the first of several town hall meetings across the state. Dozens attended, and there were more questions than time allowed. Gillibrand took questions on topics ranging from healthcare to immigration.
She says money continues to be the number one issue because large companies, wealthy individuals and lobbyists influence policy and political decisions. She says this has kept the Senate from passing key legislation related to marijuana, opioids and even healthcare.
“When you have trouble passing legislation to end the opioid crisis it’s big pharma standing in your way, when you’re trying to decriminalize marijuana it’s big pharma standing in your way.”
She also discussed immigration saying ICE (Immigration & Customers Enforcement) should be abolished because she believes the agency is doing less and less to fight terrorism and spending more time working to deport people. Over the hour-long town hall, Gillibrand discussed the need for paid family leave, reducing racism, gun control and the next pick for Supreme Court. With issues like abortion front and center, Gillibrand said she’s worried about Trump’s choice for Supreme Court.
And the President was the focus of her concern when it comes to Russian meddling. Gillibrand says he should’ve done more to call out Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the recent summit in Helsinki.
“The world was shocked at how President Trump would not stand up to Putin,” she said. “To go to Helsinki and not hold him accountable, or try, was shocking. To follow that up with an invitation to the White House is equally shocking.”
Rochelle Watson was among the voters attending the MCC forum. She says she’s frustrated with American politics, and feels as if she can no longer afford to not get involved in the election.
“I just feel like I should probably pay more attention. I took a lot for granted because things ran but now I’m concerned about what the trends will be.”
Gillibrand will hold several more town hall meetings across the state. Staffers say she was unable to hold one in Rochester on her last series of town halls, and was excited about reconnecting with Rochester constituents.
Senator Gillibrand does face an election this year. She has been in the Senate since 2009, when she was appointed to the seat after Hillary Clinton left to become Secretary of State. After winning a special eleciton in 2010 to fill the remainder of Clinton's term, Gillibrand was re-elected to a full term in 2012.
This November, Gillibrand is being challenged by Republican candidate Chele Farley.