Democratic candidate Juanita Perez Williams has received a key designation as she seeks the party's nomination in the 24th Congressional District race.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday added Perez Williams, D-Syracuse, to its "Red to Blue" program. The initiative provides fundraising and organizational support to Democratic challengers in competitive congressional districts.
Perez Williams is the third New York Democrat to be named to the Red to Blue program. She joins Max Rose, a challenger in the 11th Congressional District, and Anthony Brindisi, who is aiming to unseat U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney in the 22nd district.
In announcing the addition of Perez Williams to the Red to Blue program, the DCCC said the Syracuse Democrat has "harnessed grassroots and local support to put together a strong campaign and fundraising operation. The group added, "Beyond her demonstrated ability to build a winning campaign, Juanita Perez Williams has a strong record of service and a message that connects with voters in New York's 24th Congressional District."
The DCCC will provide other resources to support Perez Williams, including staffing and candidate training. But the committee noted that the designation is not an endorsement.
Perez Williams, a mother of four adult children, is a former U.S. Navy officer. She ran for Syracuse mayor last year and won a contentious Democratic primary. She lost in the general election to independent candidate Ben Walsh.
While she has never been an elected official, she has experience working in government. Before running for mayor last year, she was the central New York regional director for the state Department of Labor.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Perez Williams has fought for working people.
"Building on her local grassroots support and energy, it's clear that Juanita will run a competitive campaign based on creating jobs, investing in infrastructure and providing access to affordable health care for the people of New York's 24th Congressional District," Lujan said.
Perez Williams entered the 24th district race during the final days of the federal primary petitioning process. She had nine days to collect enough signatures to force a Democratic primary against Dana Balter.
The DCCC supported Perez Williams' canvassing operation. She collected over 3,200 signatures — more than the 1,250 needed to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.
Balter, D-Syracuse, is the designated Democratic candidate in the race. She won the support of the four county committees and has been endorsed by progressive organizations, including local chapters of the Indivisible movement.
Central New York Democratic leaders haven't been pleased with the DCCC's involvement in the primary. In a joint statement released earlier this month, the four party chairs in the district accused the DCCC of "meddling" in the 24th district race.
While Democrats disagree on who their nominee should be, Republicans are relishing the infighting.
"Visiting Professor Dana Balter may be an extreme liberal who can't seem to cobble together a campaign — but local Democrats don't want Washington handpicking another proven loser," said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The primary will be held Tuesday, June 26. But there is a possibility Perez Williams will be removed from the ballot. The state Board of Elections said Wednesday that two objections have been filed against her Democratic petitions. The objector has six days to file their specific issues with the petitions and then a hearing will be held.
The state Board of Elections will review the objections and then issue a ruling at its May 3 meeting. If the challenge to Perez Williams' petitions isn't successful, she will remain on the primary ballot.
The winner of the primary will face U.S. Rep. John Katko, a two-term Republican, in the general election.