The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research has attended each Coffee with Claudia in New Hartford, Binghamton, and Cortland.

Our research has focused on identifying issues raised by constituents, measuring how satisfied they are, and publicly sharing our findings through a column entitled the "NY-22 Minute” available at ucpublicaffairs.com. This service hopes to modestly contribute to a more informed and engaged civic dialogue.

Several things have stood out thus far. Health care has clearly been the top concern for most constituents. Those who raised the issue were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with how Congresswoman Tenney has handled it, including 80 percent of constituents from New Hartford and 100 percent from Binghamton.

Tenney acknowledged The American Healthcare Act she voted for “won’t solve the problem,” while defending the need to repeal The Affordable Care Act, and make insurance more affordable. Proposed cuts to Medicaid have been a major point of contention.

Many constituents expressed concern that these cuts would lead to people losing insurance coverage and other services, like those helping people with disabilities. Tenney believes the cuts would bring equality to eligibility standards, given “a large amount of Medicaid is consumed by fraud, abuse, and waste.” Her discussion of people with disabilities has focused more on personal experiences than policy.

Education and climate change have been two other reoccurring issues. Constituents expressed concern about the future of public education under President Trump. Congresswoman Tenney articulated her disagreement with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, opposed charter schools, and stated “you’re not going to find a bigger advocate for education in the Republican Party.”

Tenney defends President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord when questioned about climate change. Tenney believes America was “disproportionately burdened” by the accord, while China and India are not “paying their fair share.” Her contacts in the State Department claim the administration is renegotiating more favorable terms, though world leaders have publicly stated this will not happen.

Congresswoman Tenney recently fulfilled a commitment to a constituent in New Hartford who encouraged her to vote for additional sanctions against Russia. Tenney agreed to, and did so, her lone vote opposed to President Trump, who signed the bill, while simultaneously claiming it was flawed and unconstitutional. Tenney stated in Cortland that she “will support and oppose President Trump based on what she thinks is best.”

Congresswoman Tenney recommitted to doing town halls. Tenney told constituents in New Hartford that she would do a town hall in Cortland, then stated in Cortland that she “would love do one” and “will do one,” even though she doesn’t think they’re effective.

The Cortland session transitioned into an hour-long group meeting of about 20 constituents, due to space and temperature concerns. The dialogue was civil and interactive. Perhaps this becomes the new format, rather than groups of five for 10 minutes, which consistently ran over, creating long wait times.

Other issues discussed include refugees, immigration, racism, Russia, taxes, the federal debt, and local flooding. So far it appears many of the topics have national and local dimensions.

It’s not surprising for critics of House incumbents to be more prevalent at constituent meetings like these. It remains to be seen whether this enthusiasm carries over to the midterm campaign.

Luke Perry is chairman and professor of government at Utica College and director of The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.