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Francis Conole running again, aims to defeat Rep. John Katko for Congress

Candidate Forum 4.JPG

FILE - Democratic congressional candidate Francis Conole answers a question during the Auburn/Cayuga NAACP and Indivisible Cayuga candidates forum on Aug. 19, 2019 at Auburn High School.

Francis Conole is back. 

The Iraq War veteran is running for Congress. Conole, D-Syracuse, announced his candidacy on his social media accounts Tuesday. He will seek the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko in 2022. 

Conole launched his second campaign for Congress in front of the house on Merriman Avenue in Syracuse where his mother, Patricia, was born. While there is a personal connection to the street, it's an example of a neighborhood "that's been decimated by neglect, underinvestment and inequality," Conole says in the video. 

"I'm here today announcing my campaign for Congress because the fight is right here — for this community and for all communities," Conole continues. 

The video also previews the issues that Conole will focus on during his campaign, including health care, higher wages, investing in clean energy, boosting education, providing access to affordable housing and lowering taxes for the middle class. 

Conole graduated from Westhill High School and the U.S. Naval Academy. He was deployed to the Middle East in 2010 and worked with Army Special Forces on withdrawing from Iraq. He also served in the Office of Naval Intelligence and on President Barack Obama's armed forces inaugural committee. 

Prior to returning to central New York in 2019, Conole was a policy adviser at the Pentagon to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. He is now a Navy Reserve commander. 

In 2020, Conole sought the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, along with western Oswego County. He received the Democratic designations from Cayuga and Onondaga counties, but lost in the primary to Dana Balter. 

Since his primary defeat, Conole has been involved in local politics and is the Syracuse Democratic chair. 

While Conole hopes to challenge Katko, the district may change in the next few months. New York is losing one House seat and new districts will be in effect for the 2022 elections. Onondaga County could remain whole in one district, but the rest of the district may be different. If Onondaga County is split into two or more congressional districts, it's possible that Katko will wind up in a different district. He lives in Camillus in western Onondaga County. 

Draft maps will be released by the state Independent Redistricting Commission in September. But for now, Conole is focused on securing the Democratic nomination to challenge Katko. 

"After a decade in Washington, we don't see John Katko here or really anywhere," Conole said in his campaign announcement. "We only see him doing photo-ops and doing his party's bidding in Washington. I say enough is enough. We can do better. We have to do better for our kids and for our grandchildren." 

There is one other Democrat in the race — Steven Holden, of Camillus, who is an Army veteran. A Republican, John Murtari, is challenging Katko for the GOP nomination. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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