This is Part 5 of a daily series from The Ithaca Voice introducing voters to their potential next U.S. House of Representatives member. Sam Roberts is the fifth in the series of eight total. Others will be published each day throughout the week.
ITHACA, N.Y — Sam Roberts is aiming to add a congressional seat to a long career as an elected public official.
The Democratic race in NY-22 is packed, but Roberts boasts the greatest length of time in public office compared to his opponents, serving ten years on the Onondaga County Legislature, and two in the New York State Assembly, which he resigned to serve as the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA).
Before holding public office, Robert began a career at the now long-closed Syracuse General Motors plant, where he became steeped in the work of United Auto Workers.
“Looking back, that’s really where I cut my teeth in politics […] being involved with my union,” Roberts told The Ithaca Voice.
It’s this longstanding reputation Roberts has rooted in the core of the new district which he believes cements his bid to represent NY-22 in Washington, where he says constituent interests will remain at the forefront of his mind.
Roberts’ list of top issues primarily revolves around the economy. He said he wants to incentivize people to “return to work” which he thinks passing a federal minimum wage will help accomplish. Further, he wants to focus on improving working conditions nationally, which he sees himself as being well-poised to push with the surge that the labor movement has found during the start of the 2020s.
Climate change is also near the top of Roberts’ list, which he pairs with his want to improve the labor market and conditions for workers. An advocate of the Green New Deal, Roberts is a strong supporter of federal funds being used to spur economic growth while reducing carbon emissions.
Among other big government efforts, Roberts held up his support for national healthcare reform, citing a need to make services more “affordable and accessible,” although without putting his name behind a specific policy.
Roberts told The Voice he is an advocate for continued student loan forgiveness, commending the efforts that President Joe Biden has pushed forward while also advocating for additional debt relief and forgiveness.
Overall, Roberts more than approves of Biden and his administration’s work so far.
“I love the president and what he’s attempting to do,” said Roberts. He added that Biden “has been hit with a lot of tough issues[…] and what people don’t realize is when you get in office the person that was there before you, their initiatives—it takes a while to get them out of the network.”
Political figures that Roberts feels he shares a vision with are U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
Roberts echoed a refrain that Biden brought into office at the start of his term, advocating for an increase in bipartisan efforts, saying that he would be able to “play well in the sandbox.”
Roberts harkened back to his time on the Onondaga County Legislature when he was a Democrat on a majority Republican body of officials during the 1990s. He noted that he was able to rise to the position of a committee chair. His commitment to his constituents was why he thinks he was able to move above the fray, and what he believes will carry him forward in his congressional bid.
“I listen to the people. It’s about what my constituents need, and what they want,” said Roberts. “Not about what Sam Roberts needs.”