SYRACUSE — Dana Balter is back.
The Syracuse Democrat who lost to U.S. Rep. John Katko by five percentage points last year is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge the incumbent Republican again in 2020.
Balter launched her second congressional bid at the PressRoom Pub in Syracuse Tuesday. The event began with a slideshow featuring photos from her 2018 campaign and recognition of the 1,900 volunteers who supported her candidacy.
"We're going to reignite the movement," Balter said.
Balter is the third Democrat to join the 24th district race. Two Navy veterans, Francis Conole and Roger Misso, announced their candidacies this month.
There was no acknowledgment of the other Democrats in the race at Tuesday's event. Balter focused on Katko, R-Camillus, and panned his legislative record — many of the same criticisms she used in the 2018 campaign.
Katko, she said, insisted during the last election that there wasn't a threat to the Affordable Care Act. She accused the Trump administration and congressional Republicans of "working aggressively to undo the entire Affordable Care Act."
Balter also chided Katko for opposing H.R. 1, a Democratic proposal in the House that would overhaul the campaign finance system and bolster ethics rules. She pledged again to not accept corporate PAC donations during the campaign.
On a myriad of issues, she linked Katko's positions to his acceptance of donations from various industries. On health care, she said Katko and the GOP are aligned with the insurance companies and pharmaceutical lobbyists.
"This is a time for moral courage," she said. "We need leaders who do what's right, not what's easy."
Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey welcomed Balter and other Democrats to the race Tuesday.
"We are more excited than ever to kick off a robust discussion on the issues and our future," he said. "Until then, Congressman John Katko is focused on delivering for central New York."
Democrats have named Katko as a top target in 2020. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' campaign arm, has listed the race as a priority. The group also added Katko to a "retirement watch list," although the Republican congressman has said he intends to run next year.
Katko raised more than $284,000 in the first quarter of the 2020 election cycle — an indication he is seeking re-election. He also submitted a statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission.
Balter spent months considering another run for Congress. Since the election, she founded a nonprofit, Enter the Public Square, to boost civic engagement in central New York. At the time of the organization's launch, she said it wouldn't affect her decision on whether to run again.
In an interview after her announcement event, Balter said she plans to hire a staff to run the nonprofit — an indication that will be focused solely on her congressional bid.
To face Katko again, Balter must secure the Democratic nomination. There could be other candidates in the race by the time the county Democratic committees in the 24th district meet early next year to make a designation. A primary is possible.
Balter is prepared for a primary, but she's eager to run against Katko.
Last year, polls showed Balter trailing by double digits. But both campaigns acknowledged that the race was much closer. Balter reported raising $1.5 million in the third fundraising quarter of 2018 — a record for a Syracuse-area congressional candidate.
Her fundraising prowess and voter outreach strategy wasn't enough to win the race, but there was a consolation prize. She received more votes in Onondaga County. It was the first time Katko lost a county in three elections.
With much of her campaign infrastructure still in place, Balter hopes her second attempt at unseating Katko will be successful.
"We're going to finish the job we started," she said.