Roger Misso, a Red Creek native who was a naval flight officer on combat missions in the Middle East, is the first Democrat to enter the 24th Congressional District race against Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko. 

Misso, D-Syracuse, announced Thursday that he has filed to form a campaign committee. His entry comes at the beginning of the second fundraising quarter for federal candidates. 

"I am running because I believe in central New York," Misso said in a statement. "Our neighbors and our community deserve leaders who will put our needs ahead of the billionaires, big corporations and political insiders who fund their campaigns. I am running to bring a new generation of servant leadership to Congress." 

Misso was raised in Wayne County and is a Red Creek Central School District graduate. In his youth, he said he "grew up skipping stones" at Rudy's, a restaurant on the Lake Ontario shoreline in Oswego, and worked as a dishwasher at The Cottage Inn in his hometown. 

His military career began when he was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He graduated from the academy, then served in the Navy for more than 10 years. His stint with the Navy included combat operations as a naval flight officer.

Misso said he was deployed to the Middle East twice for combat operations, including one of the first missions against the Islamic State, a terrorist group primarily in Iraq and Syria. 

Throughout his military career, Misso said he advocated for sexual assault survivors. He served as a defense assistant in the House of Representatives and was the chief speechwriter for Adm. Michelle Howard, the first woman to become a four-star Navy admiral. 

Misso added that he was part of an effort to push for expanded child care programs, improved family leave policies and access to mental health services. 

He recently moved back to central New York with his family. He lives in Syracuse. 

Misso said in a statement that bolstering the region's economy will be a top priority if he's elected to Congress. 

"I will fight to provide jobs and security for all, to make health care universal and affordable, and to be a voice for farmers, small businesses, union members, and all the hardworking people who feel that both parties have forgotten them," Misso said. 

Katko, R-Camillus, is in his third term representing the 24th district. The district includes the western portion of Oswego County and all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties. 

In 2014, Katko was elected in a race decided by 20 points. He won re-election by 22 points in 2016. 

The 2018 campaign was Katko's toughest. He was challenged by Democratic candidate Dana Balter. Balter, D-Syracuse, was the best-funded Syracuse-area congressional challenger in history. While other Republicans across the country lost their races, Katko defeated Balter by five points. 

Balter hasn't ruled out a second campaign in 2020. She has told The Citizen that she is considering a run. 

The 24th district race is a priority for Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' campaign arm, has named Katko as a 2020 target. 

CORRECTION: A press release from Misso's campaign identified him as an aviator. He was a naval flight officer. A naval flight officer focuses on the technical aspects of an aircraft, such as navigation and weapon systems. 

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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.