U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has one job during years like this: Get Republicans elected — or re-elected — to the House of Representatives.
Walden, an Oregon Republican, is the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC is the campaign arm of the House Republican Conference.
In 2014, he made two trips to central New York to campaign for then-Republican challenger John Katko. Many political observers thought that the 24th Congressional District race that year would be tight. But Katko, R-Camillus, defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by nearly 20 points.
Now, Katko is running for a second term in Congress. Much like two years ago, the race is a top priority for both parties. But Walden thinks Katko is "very strongly positioned" to win in November.
"He has been very effective," Walden said in an interview with The Citizen. "I think he's had (13 bills) pass the House and two signed into law. That's remarkable and shows that he's an effective legislator."
Walden highlighted Katko's work on a federal transportation bill that will fund bridge and road projects. The freshman congressman served on the conference committee that settled differences between the House and Senate versions of the measure.
The NRCC chairman also touted Katko's focus on national security issues. Katko is chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and he led a task force that developed recommendations for addressing the flow of foreign fighters.
Walden thinks Katko, a former federal prosecutor, was a "perfect fit" to work on these issues in Congress. And he believes Katko's entire record will receive positive reviews from voters in the 24th District.
"People understand he's actually getting things done in a sometimes dysfunctional Washington," Walden said. "And I think that's what people want is somebody that's gonna go to Washington and actually work with people and get things done that matter in people's lives."
While Walden shared an assessment of Katko's first term in office, he also praised his efforts on the political front.
Katko has raised more than $1.9 million in the 2016 election cycle. He has over $1.4 million cash on hand as of July 1.
"He's run a good political operation and I think he's very strongly positioned to win," Walden said. "And he proved that in 2014 with the margin that he racked up. Nobody saw that big of a margin coming. What that told me was he had the team on the ground to do what needed to be done."
Walden said he's gotten to know Katko better since the 2014 election and is impressed with his work ethic. He thinks that will be a big factor in November's general election.
"This is how he operates officially," he said. "You can see that by the work product and you can see it in the campaign as well. He's not one I have to go chase down and say, 'Hey, you gotta raise some more money here. You gotta do some more things here.' He's got it in place. I'm very bullish on this race."
Katko is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Colleen Deacon. The NRCC has already played a role in the race, as has the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House Democrats' campaign arm.
Walden knows the history of this seat. Since Republican Rep. Jim Walsh retired before the 2008 election, Democrats have won the contest in presidential election years and Republicans win it in the midterms.
Incumbency hasn't mattered much. Maffei was an incumbent in 2010 and 2014 when he lost to Ann Marie Buerkle and Katko, respectively. And Buerkle lost he re-election bid to Maffei in 2012.
But Walden sees Katko faring better than the previous incumbents who ran for re-election.
"He's an independent voice, but he's a very strong player in the House," he said. "He's a terrific legislator and that's what we want are people who will come down to Washington and make things happen in a good way.
"From just a strong voice in the conference, he's very valuable. He's not afraid to speak up and when he does people listen because he has something important to say. He brings the full package to the party and to the country and the Congress. That's the kind of qualities voters are just crying for and so, I think he's represented the district effectively. He's had a big impact on security issues and transportation issues nationally and locally and is just a star."
The 24th Congressional District includes all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, plus the western portion of Oswego County.
Election Day is Nov. 8.