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Balter on rematch with Katko: What I’ll do differently this time

Democrat Dana Balter has kicked off her campaign against Rep. John Katko, promising to make November’s election about President Donald Trump, healthcare and the Republican response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Balter rallied with supporters Friday, a day after her Democratic primary opponent, Francis Conole, conceded Tuesday’s election. Conole endorsed Balter and urged Democrats to unite.

Balter launched her second bid to unseat Katko only hours after the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health law that provides insurance coverage to about 23 million Americans.

“We’re facing a pandemic, the worst public health crisis in 100 years … and John Katko and Donald Trump are trying to take healthcare away from people,” Balter said in an interview. “It’s not only absurd, but it’s immoral.”

Katko has supported repealing the Affordable Care Act, but only if Republicans replace it with a viable alternative and keep a ban on insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. He voted against a GOP repeal bill in 2017.

Balter, of Syracuse, lost to Katko, R-Camillus, by 5 percentage points in the 2018 election in the 24th Congressional District.

Balter said she plans to campaign on many of the same issues this year, but this time promised to find more ways to connect with people in person — as long as New York does not reimpose stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

“It’s about getting to know people in the district even better than I already did,” Balter said. “In terms of campaign strategy and what I spend my time doing, it’s going to be more of that. I believe that’s how we should do politics. Politics is intensely personal. It’s not some abstract partisan exercise.”

Balter said she will visit voters across the four-county district, speaking in homes, church basements, town hall-style meetings or anywhere people want to talk about their concerns.

During the primary campaign, she met virtually with voters in video conferences. She took time off Thursday morning, but said she now plans to campaign daily through Election Day, Nov. 3.

Balter said her core message will be the same: She’ll fight for affordable health care, an improved economy and ending the influence of money in politics through campaign finance reforms.

But she’ll also point out one big change from the last election: Katko endorsed Trump for president in January, a month after he voted against Trump’s impeachment in the House.

“That decision alone is enough of an indicator that Katko is not the right person to be representing Central New York,” Balter said.

Katko refused to endorse or vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. He also questioned Trump’s fitness for office and called for him to drop out of the presidential race in October 2016 over vulgar comments about women.

Balter said she will make the case to voters that Trump and Katko are now linked together, supporting the same policies such as the 2017 Republican tax reforms, a goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act, and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Balter noted that Katko voted against a Democratic House bill (the Heroes Act) that would have provided emergency aid to cash-strapped state and local governments battered during the pandemic.

The bill would provide Syracuse with $363 million over two years and Onondaga County would receive about $260 million during the same period. The bill passed the House but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“The local issues and the national leadership are not separate,” Balter said. “Donald Trump is making us less safe, less prosperous and less healthy.”

Katko has said he supports providing more coronavirus relief aid to local governments, but he voted against the House bill because Democrats included other initiatives opposed by Republicans. One provision opposed by GOP lawmakers would send federal stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants who paid federal income taxes.

Katko’s office said he would not agree to an interview Friday because he had to vote in the House of Representatives and spend the afternoon traveling back from Washington to Syracuse.

Balter launched her campaign on the same day a top political handicapper in Washington changed his rating on the election from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report wrote that “the main threat to Katko isn’t Balter; it’s the top of the ticket. President Trump is currently tanking in national polls, and Joe Biden — a 1968 Syracuse Law graduate whose first wife was from Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes region — is something of a favorite son here.”

A poll released Thursday from House Majority PAC, a Democratic group with ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, showed the race between Balter and Katko is a dead heat.

Balter and Katko were tied at 47-47% in the poll of likely voters in the 24th Congressional District conducted by Normington Petts & Associates in early June. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The same poll found Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 56-40% in the district, and 66% percent of respondents believe the country is on the wrong track.

The 24th Congressional District spans all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western half of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton.

MORE ON 2020 NY PRIMARY ELECTION

Election Day 2020: NY primary voting results for Central New York

Francis Conole concedes to Dana Balter

Democratic congressional primary records highest vote total in 38 years

Joe Biden finishes night with big lead in CNY presidential primary vote

Republicans bet $5.5M on Tenney, making race against Brindisi one of nation’s hottest

Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact Mark Weiner anytime by: Email | Twitter | Facebook | 571-970-3751


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