By: USA Today Washington Bureau Reporter Brian Tumulty @NYinDC
WASHINGTON – Martin Babinec of Little Falls wants voters in the Binghamton area and Mohawk Valley to do for him what Vermont voters did for Bernie Sanders.
Before Sanders won election to the U.S. Senate, he was the last independent to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning in eight consecutive House races beginning in November 1990.
Babinec hopes to repeat that feat as a third-party candidate in the open-seat race to replace Republican Rep. Richard Hanna in New York’s 22nd Congressional District. The district is anchored by Binghamton, Cortland, Utica and Rome.
“The idea of running as an independent in most years would be considered as insanity,’’ Babinec acknowledged in an interview.
But in this election cycle, he said, “Voters are absolutely frustrated and downright angry with what’s happened in both parties. They don’t like the choices at the top of the ticket. And they blame party leadership for the outcome we have now in the general election. So they are actually embracing the idea of supporting an independent.’’
If he’s elected, Babinec said he would work with both major parties and pull them to the political center.
This 61-year-old businessman already has invested $1 million of his own money in the three-way race.
Babinec founded a firm in the San Francisco Bay area in 1988 that’s now traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That company, TriNet Group, handles payroll and health benefits for small- and medium-sized businesses and provides advice on employment law issues and risk reduction.
Although he’s no longer an executive at the firm, Babinec received $53,250 last year as a director and $453,000 from exercising stock options. A native of Little Falls, he moved his family back to the area in 1999, commuting to the West Coast for many years.
Babinec said he’s running because he wants to promote job creation in the region. He founded Upstate Venture Connect in 2010 to help New York’s first-time entrepreneurs connect with the resources they need to grow, and he later co-founded StartFast Venture Accelerator to invest in high-growth startups.
But the region still needs leadership from a member of Congress who can make economic growth happen, he said.
“For example, if I were to call together a meeting of the college presidents for the 12 colleges in the district, if I were a congressman, they would show up,” Babinec said. “And if I were to suggest some initiatives that would have some collaboration between some of our economic development organizations and our higher education resources, I would be in a position to influence that in a greater fashion than I can do as a volunteer. This is how we bring about change.’’
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