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A Syracuse-area businesswoman will become the first Democrat to enter the 24th Congressional District race against incumbent U.S. Rep. John Katko. 

Anne Messenger, a Manlius resident, will announce her candidacy for Congress at a press conference in Syracuse Tuesday. She will seek the Democratic nomination in the 24th District, which is comprised of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, plus the western part of Oswego County. 

Messenger, 70, operated her own career management and human resources consulting business, Messenger Associates. She's a former marketing executive at DBM and led a career development design team at Lockheed Martin in the Syracuse area. 

She has served on numerous boards in central New York. Her experience includes a two-year stint as chair of the Onondaga Community College board of trustees. She was also board chair at the Central New York Community Foundation. 

She's now a member of CenterState CEO, a major economic development organization in the region, the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Central New York regional advisory board and the St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center council of advisors. 

Messenger has earned many accolades during her career. She received the business champion of the year award from the Small Business Administration's Syracuse district in 2009. Syracuse University recognized her with the Ann Michel Distinguished Entrepreneur Award for Small Business in 2005 and the Community Entrepreneurial Leadership Award in 2008. 

Democrats will likely have a crowded field seeking to unseat Katko, a Camillus Republican who was first elected in 2014. 

Messenger is the first candidate to publicly announce a congressional bid. Another Democrat, former Syracuse city auditor Phil LaTessa, has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. But he hasn't made any public declaration that he's running for Congress. 

There are other candidates considering a run, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. Miner is in her final year as mayor and there have been questions about her future plans. She hasn't announced whether or not she'll run for Congress. 

Republicans believe Katko is in a strong position to win a third term next year. 

"Congressman Katko has led the charge on key issues in his district since taking office, including introducing legislation to combat the synthetic drug epidemic and working to expand mental health services," said Chris Martin, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. " We are fully confident that voters will reward his successful record in 2018."

Democrats are hopeful that they can defeat Katko despite his past electoral success. He defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, a Democrat, by 20 points in the 2014 election. 

Last year, he won re-election by 22 points over Democratic challenger Colleen Deacon. 

But Katko's victories came when Democrats still held the White House. With Republicans now in control of the executive branch and Congress, Democrats are looking to use that to their advantage in 2018. 

The party that holds the White House traditionally has lost seats in Congress. In 2010, the first midterm of President Barack Obama's tenure in office, a wave allowed Republicans to capture a majority in the House of Representatives. 

Another wave in 2014 enabled the GOP to add to its majority in the House and retake the Senate. 

Democrats hold a slight enrollment advantage in the 24th district. As of April 1, there were 4,626 more active Democrats than GOP voters in the district. 

Three leading political prognosticators — Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball — give Republicans a strong edge in the race. All three rate it "likely Republican." 

"I welcome Anne Messenger to this race," Katko said. "I remain focused, as I always have, on fighting for central New York's priorities in Congress — working to grow our local economy and strengthen infrastructure, bolstering national security to keep our country safe, and addressing the heroin and synthetic drug epidemic devastating our community." 

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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.

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