IC Republicans host Congressman Joe Sempolinski – Ithaca College The Ithacan

IC Republicans host Congressman Joe Sempolinski – Ithaca College The Ithacan

Republican Congressman Joe Sempolinksi spoke at Ithaca College by invitation of IC Republicans on Oct. 5 in the Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise. 
About six people gathered in a lecture hall to listen to Sempolinski speak. Senior Jack Cicio, president of IC Republicans, facilitated the event. Cicio said there will be an election watch party on Election Day, Nov. 8, to encourage student involvement.
“We have midterm elections coming up in November and [we’ll] try to get as many people as possible to vote Republican,” Cicio said. 
Sempolinski is a constitutional conservative in the House of Representatives and was elected in a special election Aug. 23, 2022, following Representative Tom Reed’s resignation announcement in May 2022. Sempolinksi’s term will end Jan. 3, 2023, after serving a total of four months. 
Sempolinski represents the 23rd Congressional District of New York, which includes Tompkins County. The district underwent redistricting in February 2021 after the 2020 census. He discussed his decision not to run for reelection, with one reason being the redistricting.
“The new version of the district that I represent … [is] a completely new population center,” Sempolinski said.
Sempolinski said he can now focus on the people he was elected to represent instead of putting his efforts into campaigning.
“Now I can spend the remainder of this term worried about working for all of you and trying to do a good job for all of you instead of … up in the other end of the state trying to run for a different seat for a different term,” Sempolinski said. “If I was off running somewhere else, I probably wouldn’t be coming to talk to students at Ithaca College.”
Sempolinksi answered questions about reproductive rights and stated he takes a strong pro-life stance, which he said was because his daughter has Down syndrome. According to Prenatal Diagnosis, a scientific journal, an average of 67% of prenatal diagnoses for Down syndrome end in abortion. 
“I think that’s a gargantuan tragedy for our country,” Sempolinski said. “I see where unfettered abortion access goes for people who are like my daughter and that makes me very nervous and very sad.”
The City of Ithaca has had sanctuary laws in place since July 6, 2022. This means officials in Ithaca can not help any other governments to investigate criminal charges against people who perform or receive abortions. 
Sempolinski also discussed his position on gun control. He said he wants to focus on the person behind the gun as opposed to restricting access to the guns themselves.
“Let’s get between the ears of the person that’s pulling the trigger and deal with that as a more underlying solution than dealing with the instrument,” Sempolinski said.
According to the Office of the New York State Attorney General, New York does not allow any weapons to be carried openly, and it is legal for gun sellers to perform background checks, mental health checks and training before issuing a firearm. 
At least three of the students in attendance were not members of the club but had been invited by friends. Senior Elijah Bartlow attended the event because a friend in the club told him about it.
“I figured it’d probably be good to try to start getting into local politics and try to learn a bit more,” Bartlow said.
Bartlow said he appreciated getting a new perspective on local issues.
“I liked hearing about the viewpoints of a local politician,” Bartlow said. “It was nice to hear someone who’s not just on a TV screen talking.”
Senior Caroline Peyron, the vice president of IC Republicans, said the club’s main forms of recruitment for events like Sempolinksi’s Q&A are an email list and word of mouth.
“It’s really just a matter of letting people know that it’s a thing because it’s really a good idea to hear from local politicians,” Peyron said.
Peyron said it is important for students to stay informed, especially for elections like special elections and midterms. According to the US Census Bureau, 36% of voters ages 18 to 29 voted in the 2018 midterm elections, a 79% increase from 2014.
“There’s not a huge turnout, especially with our age bracket, of people voting in small elections,” Peyron said. “Those have a handle in our daily lives.”
After he was done speaking, Sempolinski said events like these are an opportunity to reach voters. He said as a representative who serves on the Education and Labor Committee in the House of Representatives, post-secondary education policy is important.
“It’s important to encourage young people to be involved in the political process, especially at the collegiate level,” Sempolinski said. “These are not just students, these are voters.”
Sempolinski also emphasized the importance of broadening students’ views beyond their academics.
“If we’re going to have these students being our future, I want them to not just be involved in whatever their particular major or course of study is but also to be active citizens,” Sempolinski said.
Noa Ran-Ressler can be reached at [email protected]
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