Wayne County residents haven’t been represented in Congress by the same person — or party — for more than two consecutive years since Republican Jim Walsh retired in 2009. It’s time for some consistency, and incumbent Republican John Katko of Camillus has proven he’s up to the job.
The 24th Congressional District is an amalgam of liberal and conservative communities. The best way to represent the varied interests of its people is to stand athwart the partisan bickering and stagnation that plagues D.C. politics.
“Bipartisan is not a dirty word,” Katko declared to our editorial board. For two years, he’s adopted it as a working philosophy. He made a point of getting at least one Democratic co-sponsor for all but two of the 27 bills he introduced during this session.
That was strategic, said Katko, who left a 20-year career as a federal prosecutor to represent the 24th district. He argues the only way to get things done in a divided and divisive House of Representatives is to reach across the aisle — a policy that needs to be championed and rewarded with a second term.
A productive freshman Congressional representative, Katko introduced 15 bills that passed the House. In addition, six bills he co-sponsored were signed into law by President Obama. None were controversial — naming memorial postal facilities, creating breast cancer awareness coins, defining Arlington National Cemetery inurnment qualifications — but, still an impressive feat in this notoriously “Do Nothing” Congress.
“I’m not afraid to stand up to my own party,” Katko declared, which he acknowledges gains him a healthy share of vitriol on his Facebook page from conservative constituents. Independent leadership and a willingness to negotiate is what the district has been missing since Walsh retired, he added.
We agree and laud Katko for his efforts in that arena. It’s what the people of the 24th deserve.
And, it’s what we fear his opponent, Democrat Colleen Deacon, couldn’t pull off. Although we think her personal background as a single mother from a working class family provides her with a refreshing perspective on problems that plague average citizens, she has failed to demonstrate that same degree of autonomy. A former aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Deacon and her campaign have followed a steadfast party line, crowned by an endorsement from President Obama.
That fails to recognize the political breadth of the 24th, despite its heavy Democratic population base in Syracuse. In fact, when pressed about how she would address specific concerns of Wayne County’s voters and the region’s struggling rural economy, Deacon had few substantive answers. She even looks to the vibrancy of the Finger Lakes tourism industry to play a key role there, a position we found out-of-step with reality. There’s little evidence the burgeoning craft food and beverage movement has generated appreciable jobs north of the Thruway.
In contrast, Katko is knowledgeable of dairy and fruit farmers’ struggles with immigration policy and the need for an effective worker visa program. He recognizes the need to replace lost manufacturing jobs and retain employers like Ginna by closing corporate tax loopholes, providing businesses with incentives to stay or return stateside, and making our workforce more efficient.
These common-sense approaches, Katko said, are not the end of the world. “You need folks in the middle to get things done,” he told us.
We wholeheartedly support that view, and we’d like to see him apply that attitude and energy to more complex issues in his second term.