A November meeting marked the beginning of a bipartisan relationship between Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Anthony Brindisi and Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko — a rapport that could benefit both men when they seek re-election in 2020.
Brindisi, D-Utica, was in Washington for freshman orientation when he sat down with Katko, R-Camillus, in the congressman's office. As an indication of how important they viewed the meeting, Katko's office shared a photo of the pair on social media.
A spokesperson for Katko said at the time that Brindisi and Katko discussed issues affecting central New York and Oswego County, a county that is split between the 24th Congressional District represented by Katko and the 22nd district Brindisi will represent beginning in January.
Beyond their congressional collaboration, though, there are political benefits to a Brindisi-Katko bromance. Brindisi won by a narrow margin over GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney in the 22nd district race. Katko, who won by 20 and 22 points in his first two elections, had his most competitive race yet. In November, he defeated Democratic challenger Dana Balter by a six-point margin.
With more enrolled Republicans in NY-22, Brindisi could face a competitive challenge in 2020. And after his closest race in three elections, unseating Katko will be a high priority for Democrats in two years.
Dr. Luke Perry, a political science professor at Utica College, said Brindisi will want to focus on is improving his support in rural areas that tend to vote Republican. Brindisi fared well in Broome, Cortland and Oneida counties, each of which has cities. In the district's more rural areas, Tenney received more support.
One county Brindisi lost: Oswego, which he will share with Katko.
"There's a political opportunity for Brindisi to try and improve his following there," Perry said.
With the new Congress beginning in January, Brindisi and Katko are discussing ways they can work together. When asked in an interview if he can find common ground with Katko, Brindisi responded, "100 percent."
Brindisi described his meeting with Katko as a "great conversation." He said they not only reviewed issues related to their districts, but they also talked about some subjects they could work on after he's sworn in as the 22nd district's representative.
"I can foresee a great working relationship with Congressman Katko," Brindisi said.
Katko echoed Brindisi's comments. In a separate interview, he emphasized the need to work together because of their shared interests, such as Oswego County.
It won't be the first time Katko partnered with upstate New York Democrats. As an example, he noted that he partnered with the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter on bills.
"I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat," Katko said. "If you're from upstate, we should be working together to get things done and that's what we're going to do."
The budding Brindisi-Katko partnership reminds Perry of another bipartisan bond: Brindisi's relationship with GOP state Sen. Joe Griffo.
Brindisi, a Democratic state assemblyman since 2011, partnered with Griffo on many issues over the years. In one of his campaign ads for the 22nd district race, he mentioned Griffo's name while touting his bipartisan approach.
John Katko, Perry said, could be the next Joe Griffo for Brindisi.
"There are substantive advantages to partnering," he said.
Due to a personal matter, the Eye on NY podcast interviews with state Sen.-elect Rachel May and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon was postponed. The interviews have been rescheduled.
The May interview will be available Wednesday on auburnpub.com, iTunes, Google Play and PodBean. The interview with McMahon will be posted in mid-January.