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Ann Marie Buerkle and Dan Maffei

U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, left, is running for re-election in the new 24th Congressional District against former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, right. This is a rematch of the 2010 election. Buerkle defeated Maffei two years ago by 648 votes. Maffei is running again, hoping to win back the seat he lost.

It's not the largest part of the new 24th Congressional District, but Cayuga County will be an important battleground in what many believe will be one of the closest races in the country. 

Last Saturday, Democratic candidate Dan Maffei spent about an hour with the newly formed Democratic Women of Cayuga County at Auburn Public Theater.

Two days later, U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, held a pizza party fundraiser at the Ukrainian National Club in Auburn. 

"I can't tell all of you how happy I am that we have Cayuga County in the district," Buerkle told the crowd of about 75 people. "I want you to know how much I look forward to representing all of Cayuga County."

During his speech to the DWCC, Maffei discussed the presence his campaign would have in Auburn and Cayuga County.

"We will be having an Auburn office. We will be having a major local presence out here," he said. "We already have a phone bank going on in Syracuse and we will be doing both door-to-door and phone-to-phone." 

Why is Cayuga County important for both candidates?

For starters, it's the one county in the district where enrollment is comparable to the district's overall enrollment. While Wayne County and the part of Oswego County in the district are solidly Republican, and Democrats have the enrollment edge in Onondaga County, there are 1,608 more Republicans than Democrats in Cayuga County. (In the entire 24th District, there are 4,314 more Republicans than Democrats.)

But there is also the obvious: Buerkle is a native of Auburn. She was raised here. She has family living in the city. (Her mom still lives here.) At the pizza party fundraiser, not only was Buerkle's mom in attendance, but she had plenty of friends from the area there to support her. 

Cayuga County Democratic Chairwoman Katie Lacey, who introduced Maffei at the DWCC event, mentioned Buerkle's ties to Auburn in her remarks. But she told the audience that it's important to look at Buerkle's current record, not the past.

"You are going to hear a lot of used-to-be's," Lacey said. "Ann Marie Buerkle used to be from Auburn. Ann Marie used to be a nurse. Ann Marie used to go to Mount Carmel. Ann Marie's family used to run the Mohican Market. That's all nice. But we're going to find out a lot of information that's going to prove that what Ann Marie Buerkle used to be is not important. What she is is important. And she is extremely wrong for this district."

While Democrats say Buerkle is wrong for the district, the county's Republican Party leader believes the opposite.

Cayuga County Republican Chairwoman Cherl Heary said in an interview last week that it's Buerkle, not Maffei, who has the edge in this race.

"I think (Buerkle) has the advantage this time. People know where she stands on everything," Heary said. "She's an Auburn girl and I think that's going to show. Now that she's got the entire county, I think she's going to do a whole lot better here. I really believe, in my mind, that she's going to win. It will be a good challenge, but I believe she's going to win this one." 

What should voters in Cayuga County expect?

You will see the TV ads, hear the radio ads and you will read about this race online and in print.

But you should also expect door-to-door campaigning. And you will likely see a lot of campaign literature throughout the area, especially in Auburn. 

In 2010, Buerkle-Maffei I was decided by 648 votes. This race will likely be close again. (Maybe not 648 votes close, but who knows?) And we can't forget that there is a third candidate, Ursula Rozum, who is running on the Green Party line. 

The bottom line: The Buerkle and Maffei camps will be fighting hard for votes. Of the four counties in the district, Cayuga County is the one where both candidates could receive plenty of votes. So expect to see them both (and their volunteers) on the ground a lot in the coming months. 

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