Dana Balter wanted to build a movement. On Tuesday, her campaign delivered a message to national Democrats and U.S. Rep. John Katko.
Balter, D-Syracuse, won the Democratic primary in the 24th Congressional District. She defeated Juanita Perez Williams by 26 points, 63 to 37 percent. Balter received 13,892 votes to Perez Williams' 8,291.
It was a resounding victory for Balter, who was the designated Democratic candidate in the race. It appeared she wouldn't face a serious primary challenge until Perez Williams, D-Syracuse, surprised local Democrats by announcing her candidacy in early April.
Perez Williams was backed by national Democrats, most notably the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But that didn't faze Balter or her campaign. On primary election night, she won each of the district's four counties by wide margins. In Cayuga County, she received 604 more votes than Perez Williams.
There was higher turnout this year than there was for the 2016 primary in the 24th district. There were 13,068 total votes cast in that three-way race two years ago. Not counting the absentee ballots in this year's primary, there were 22,183 votes cast.
"It feels fantastic," Balter said in a phone interview. "It demonstrates to me that what we've been saying right along is right on — that the people of this district want a representative who will show up, who will listen and who will stand up for them."
Perez Williams couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night, but in her concession speech she called for Democrats to unite against Katko, R-Camillus, in November.
Balter hopes her primary win will send a message to the national Democratic Party, which didn't seem to believe she was a viable candidate to challenge Katko. Pelosi and other prominent Democrats donated thousands to Perez Williams' campaign.
While Perez Williams received support from the party, Balter was endorsed by local and national progressive organizations. The groups supporting her include the National Organization for Women, Democracy for America, the national Indivisible movement and Our Revolution.
"I think what this shows the national party is that we need to return our politics and government to the people — that we should be engaging in politics that builds from the ground up," Balter said. "I think we could not have demonstrated that more decisively than we did tonight."
With the primary win, Balter's focus will shift to Katko. The incumbent Republican was first elected in 2014 and won a second term in 2016. In both elections, he won by at least 20 points.
Jeff Bishop, Katko's campaign manager, welcomed Balter to the general election race.
"(Katko) looks forward to running on his record of bipartisanship and being an independent voice for central New York in Congress," he said.
Balter has been one of Katko's most vocal critics even before she was a candidate for Congress. She was a member of the CNY Solidarity Coalition, an activist group that formed after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
After her primary win, Balter had a message for Katko.
"I think what this tells him is that the people of this district are ready for change, and we're coming for him in November," she said.
Unofficial election results
|NY-24 Primary||Dana Balter||Juanita Perez Williams|
|100 percent of precincts reporting|