U.S. Rep. John Katko has a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Dana Balter in the 24th Congressional District race, according to a new Spectrum News/Siena College poll of 513 likely voters released Monday night.
Katko, R-Camillus, leads Balter, D-Syracuse, by 15 points, 54 to 39 percent. He's supported by a vast majority of GOP voters (86 percent) and even 21 percent of Democrats. Balter is backed by 72 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Republicans.
Katko fares better than Balter with independents (51 to 40 percent) and men (63 to 32 percent). Among women, the two candidates are running even at 45 percent.
Balter leads by 32 points, 62 to 30 percent, in the city of Syracuse, a Democratic stronghold. However, Katko has the advantage in the rest of the district. In the rest of Onondaga County, he's up by 14 points, 53 to 39 percent. In Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne counties, he outpaces Balter by 35 points, 65 to 30 percent.
Voters under 55 prefer Katko, 51 to 41 percent. The GOP congressman's lead among older voters (55 and up) is 18 points, 56 to 38 percent.
The survey was conducted Aug. 20-23, according to a news release. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percent.
Siena pollster Steve Greenberg noted that while Katko has a lead in the poll, voters are split (47 to 45 percent) on whether Republicans or Democrats should control the House of Representatives. And nearly half of 24th district voters say they disapprove of Donald Trump's job as president.
"As we approach Labor Day and the race heats up, Balter has her work cut out for her," Greenberg said. "Katko is better known and gets a lot more support from Democrats than Balter gets from Republicans, and he has a double-digit lead with independents."
The Spectrum News/Siena College poll is the first public survey released in the 24th district race. A poll conducted on behalf of Speak Out Central New York, a Democratic-leaning group, found Balter leading Katko by 4 points. But that poll is considered an outlier. Internal polling, reports indicate, show Katko with an "impressive" lead in his second re-election bid.
Jeff Bishop, Katko's campaign manager, believes the poll is a reflection of the congressman's work as an "independent and accessible representative."
"He has worked to deliver results for his community and looks forward to running on that record in November," Bishop said.
Balter's campaign explained that the Spectrum News/Siena College poll before the Democratic primary in June had Juanita Perez Williams, Balter's opponent, leading by 13 points. Balter won the primary by 25 percentage points.
They also pointed out that the poll was conducted before the release of Balter's first television commercial of the general election campaign.
"These numbers will change as soon as voters learn about Katko's record of voting to raise taxes on New York's working families while delivering a massive tax cut to his corporate campaign donors," said Joe Farrell, Balter's campaign manager.
Katko was first elected to Congress in 2014. He won another term in 2016. In both races, his margin of victory was at least 20 points.
Democrats expected to pick up several House seats this year, and Katko is a target. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' campaign arm, named Balter to its Red to Blue program that assists Democratic challengers against GOP incumbents.
National Democrats didn't support Balter until after the June primary. Their preferred candidate was Juanita Perez Williams, who lost to Balter by 25 points in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Despite Democratic gains expected this year, Katko is favored to win re-election. Cook Political Report, a leading political forecaster, listed him as one of five GOP congress members "defying the blue wave." Cook rates the 24th district race as "likely Republican."
"We will continue to watch this district which has frequently flipped parties but for now, advantage Katko," Greenberg said.