SYRACUSE — Fresh off her second primary victory in two years, Democrat Dana Balter is now fully turning her attention towards her Republican opponent in November, incumbent Congressman John Katko, in the race for the 24th District seat.
And it’s clear she is going to link Katko with President Trump, whose polling numbers have dipped amid his response to the coronavirus pandemic and national calls for police reform.
Balter held a press conference Friday morning following a concession — and ultimate endorsement — announcement on Thursday afternoon by her primary opponent, Frances Conole.
Balter has not been declared the winner of Tuesday’s primary because a large number of mail-in ballots have yet to be counted. However, she leads Conole by a nearly two to one margin, 10,566 to 5,813.
In his statement, Conole said the district, which includes all of Wayne County, needs “a leader who will fight for us. That leader is Dana Balter. ... Now is the time for our party and our community to come together and unite behind Dana Balter. Only together can we defeat Congressman John Katko and Donald Trump in November and bring the true change we need to central New York.”
Balter said the primary race was better for having Conole and Roger Misso in it. Misso dropped out in March.
Balter said the link between Katko and the President is no longer in question because he has endorsed Trump after refusing to do so in 2016.
“They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep,” she said. “You can also tell a lot about someone by the people they endorse. John Katko has told us loudly and clearly who he is with his endorsement of Donald Trump. He has shown us his true colors and revealed his vision for our country. And I promise you, John Katko’s and Donald Trump’s vision for America is not the vision of America that I endorse.”
Balter pointed to the president’s divisive nature, his attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act and his disinterest in forming what she called a “more just” America — ranging from healthcare and jobs to criminal justice and the election system.
Balter said the President embraces division and racism at a time when we need a country working together.
She noted how people in the district banded together in the COVID-19 response through multiple acts of altruism, while people of all colors have recognized the need for police and criminal justice reform.
“It is evidence of what can be when we recognize that our fates are intertwined,” she said. “That we are responsible to and for each other and that we rise and fall together.”
While Balter lost by about six percentage points to Katko in 2018, she’s confident of her chances in November, noting she has better name recognition this time around.
And she pointed to a poll conducted on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee indicating that if the election were held today, she would defeat Katko by three percentage points, 48 to 45 percent. The poll has Joe Biden leading Trump by 54 percent to 36 in the district.
Additionally, the Cook Political Report on Friday said the race has now moved from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.”
The DCCC said the poll sampled 400 voters and had a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
The Katko campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.