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Democratic candidates for Congress, Dana Balter, right, and Anne Messenger speak during a forum on Wednesday, Feb. 7 in Auburn at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Dana Balter is thrilled to be the designated Democratic candidate in the 24th Congressional District race. But she is more excited by the energy shown by those who are supporting her campaign. 

Balter, D-Syracuse, clinched the designation when the Onondaga County Democratic Committee endorsed her to challenge U.S. Rep. John Katko Saturday. She already had the support of the Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne Democrats. The three county committees backed her in early February. 

"I think it says a lot about what people in the district are thinking and what they're ready to do," Balter said in a phone interview Monday. 

There was high turnout for the Onondaga County Democratic Committee's vote. Balter noted that the committee, the largest in the four-county district, has dozens of new members. 

Balter has local activists backing her campaign. Knit the 24th, a coalition of Indivisible groups that formed in the 24th Congressional District, endorsed her in February. She also won the support of Uplift Syracuse, a central New York progressive group. 

Before launching her congressional bid, Balter was a leading activist with the CNY Solidarity Coalition. The coalition launched after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. 

Her connection to grassroots groups in the district is an important part of Balter's campaign. 

"I am optimistic that we can be successful in November and it will be because of the support of the people of the 24th district," she said. "That's incredibly important to me. It's a huge part of why I am running this campaign. We have to return government to the people of this country. 

She added, "Representatives are supposed to be working day in and day out on behalf of the people they represent, not on behalf of big money interests, not on behalf of corporate donors, not on behalf of party leadership. It is supposed to be about the people." 

Balter may be required to run in a primary for the Democratic nomination. While Democratic candidates Scott Comegys and Anne Messenger opted not to continue their campaigns, Bill Bass said he would circulate petitions to force a primary. 

To qualify for the primary ballot, candidates must collect at least 1,250 valid signatures from Democratic voters in the 24th district. 

Despite the potential primary contest, Balter insists her focus is on the Republican incumbent. 

"My approach has been the same from day one of this campaign, which is I am running against John Katko and I am running to bring representation for central New York that represents the interests of the people who live here and try to restore some health to the dysfunction in Washington," she said. "That's where my sights are set. That's what I've been doing since the first day of the campaign and that's what I will continue to do."