Perhaps it's wishful thinking, or perhaps it's based on the inside-the-Beltway rumor mill. But Democrats continue to believe U.S. Rep. John Katko is a prime candidate for retirement before the 2020 election. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' political arm, renewed speculation about Katko's political future by circulating a FiveThirtyEight.com story that mentions the Camillus Republican and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a GOP congressman from Pennsylvania. 

Katko and Fitzpatrick are the only two House Republicans who represent districts Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election. Clinton won New York's 24th district, which Katko represents, by 3.6 percentage points. 

The FiveThirtyEight article focuses on the recent retirements announced by House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Will Hurd — a moderate Texas Republican who was considered one of the most vulnerable GOP members. The story also notes it has been 67 years since a party last regained the House majority in a presidential election year. 

"With that history in mind, as well as the misery of minority status in a hyper-partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill," FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley writes, "don't be shocked if more Republicans decide to exit stage right." 

In February, the DCCC added Katko to its "retirement watch list." At the time, Katko's campaign said he intended to seek re-election in 2020. 

On the heels of the FiveThirtyEight story, the DCCC reiterated its belief that Katko may not run for another term. 

"With his fellow vulnerable Republicans waving their white flags of defeat with a brutal re-election campaign coming up, Congressman Katko knows his chances of holding onto this seat are becoming less likely with each passing day," said Christine Bennett, a DCCC spokesperson. "John Katko knows November 2020 won't be pretty." 

However, Katko isn't budging. In July, he made it official: He will seek a fourth term in Congress. He launched his re-election campaign by raising more than $521,000 in the second quarter of the year — a personal high for fundraising in a non-election year and his second-best quarter in four campaigns for the 24th district seat. 

In a statement, Katko said he's running for re-election because "we need more pragmatism and less divisiveness in Washington." 

"I'm incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support we've received this quarter, and for the tireless work of our volunteers and grassroots supporters from across Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego counties," he added. 

Katko's past electoral performance may factor into his decision, too. Before Katko won re-election in 2016, a Republican hadn't won the Syracuse-area congressional election in a presidential cycle since former U.S. Rep. Jim Walsh in 2004. Katko's margin of victory that year was 22 points — topping his 20-point win in 2014. 

In 2018, Katko defeated Democratic challenger Dana Balter in his toughest campaign yet. He won by five percentage points and was one of the few House Republican success stories. Despite GOP losses across the country and the Democrats winning control of the House, Katko retained his seat. 

Even if Katko doesn't retire, Democrats hope to defeat him in 2020. He's one of the DCCC's top targets and three Democrats — Balter, Francis Conole and Roger Misso — are vying for the party's nomination to challenge him next fall. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.