Dana Balter believes she can unseat U.S. Rep. John Katko this fall. On Monday, national Democrats made it official: They think she can, too.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' political arm, added Balter, D-Syracuse, to its Red to Blue program. According to the DCCC's website, the program is for top-tier candidates challenging incumbent Republicans and assists them with fundraising and organizational support.
"I'm excited to have the DCCC on our team as we kick off the general election," Balter said. "We're going to win this race in November because central and western New Yorkers are ready to move on from Donald Trump's and John Katko's failed leadership after they have spent years working to rip away our health care. Folks in our district know that I will be a champion for them when I'm in Congress and I'll work to fix the damage done by the Trump administration."
The announcement follows Balter's win in the 24th Congressional District Democratic primary. While more than 30,000 absentee votes haven't been counted, Balter leads Francis Conole by 29 points after the early and election night votes were tallied. Conole, D-Syracuse, conceded on Thursday.
With Balter's primary victory, she will face Katko, R-Camillus, again in the general election. Katko defeated Balter by five percentage points in the 2018 campaign.
Balter had the DCCC's support two years ago, but it didn't come until a month after the primary election. The DCCC recruited another candidate, Juanita Perez Williams, to force a primary against Balter, who had won the support of local Democratic committees. Balter won the primary by 24 points. But it wasn't until early August that the DCCC added her to its Red to Blue program.
This year, it's a different situation. Less than a week after the primary, Balter is part of the Red to Blue program. But that's not the only show of support from the DCCC. The committee's chair, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, is helping Balter raise money. Bustos, an Illinois Democrat, sent a fundraising email to Balter's campaign list after the DCCC's announcement Monday.
"Dana Balter understands the challenges facing central New Yorkers because she has lived them," Bustos said. "Inspired by her brother, Dana has fought for the needs of Americans with disabilities and began her career as a teacher and director of education for a disability services nonprofit. Dana is running a strong, locally focused grassroots campaign and is well-positioned to flip New York's 24th district and ensure central New Yorkers have a representative fighting for them in Congress."
Democrats believe they can win in the 24th district, which includes the western part of Oswego County and all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties. A DCCC poll conducted in the days leading up to the primary election found Balter is leading Katko by three points in the general election race. A separate poll released by House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, showed that the race is a dead heat, with Balter and Katko tied at 47%.
Following the release of the internal polls, Cook Political Report — one of the top political forecasters — changed the 24th district rating from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican."
Republicans are confident that Katko can win reelection. He was first elected in 2014 and won reelection in 2016, a presidential election year, by 21 points. While his five-point win in 2018 was his closest race yet, he was one of the few success stories as Republicans lost several seats in the House and Democrats won majority control of the chamber.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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