Democrats hold forum for candidates running to defeat Republican Congressman Chris Collins

The local Democratic party and Geneseo College Democrats invited five Democratic candidates competing in the November 2018 Congressional election to campus on Thursday Feb. 1 for an open forum in the MacVittie College Union ballroom (pictured above). The candidates presented themselves as liberals who could win against incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Collins by appealing to both Democrats and Republicans. (Malachy Dempsey/News Editor)

The College Democrats and local Democratic community members held a forum that featured the five candidates running to oppose incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Collins for the 27th Congressional District. 

The Democratic candidate forum was held in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Thursday Feb. 1, and featured candidates Sean Bunny, Tom Casey, Joan Seamans, Nate McMurray and Nick Stankevich. Around 200 people attended the event, with significant representation from the Village and Town community. 

Some of the Democratic opposition to Collins results from his perceived corruption, as well as his strong relationship with President Donald Trump, according to Livingston County Democratic Committee Chair Judith Hunter, who emceed the event. 

Members of the Geneseo College Democrats helped coordinate the event and acted as intermediaries between the speakers and attendees. The event was successful overall, despite the general lack of student participants, according to Geneseo College Democrats president senior Kelsey VanEtten.

“I think it went amazingly,” VanEtten said. “This is way more of a turnout than I was expecting, although less student turnout than I was expecting. I’m a very big proponent of the idea that politics starts on the local level, and I want to encourage that and instill that in my members.” 

Each candidate gave opening statements before the main portion, where audience members asked the panelists questions, ranging from immigration and universal healthcare to corruption and the proper role of government within the community. 

On most of the issues, the candidates aligned in terms of their general solutions, while differing on the details. Candidates presented themselves as foils to Trump and Collins, expressing plans for liberal or progressive policies.

The 27th Congressional District expands over parts of eight counties in Western New York. The district includes Genesee, Livingston and Wyoming counties as well as the suburbs of Rochester and Buffalo. 

Hunter believes that the forum and its participants will be able to influence current events through supporting Democratic candidates.  

“We live in unsettling times. We live in distressing times, but we live in exciting times,” Hunter said. “It starts here, it starts now. It starts with all of us. You are the influencers who will help determine who the nominee is going forward [and] we all need your support to move into this election unified.”