Dana Balter turned to unusual sources to help make her case against U.S. Rep. John Katko: Republican voters and former supporters of the GOP congressman.
Five former Katko voters are featured in a new campaign commercial released by Balter, D-Syracuse, who is challenging the Republican in the 24th Congressional District race. The ad features many of the same themes mentioned in prior Balter commercials, but the difference is who's delivering the message.
It's reminiscent of an ad in the 2018 campaign between Balter and Katko in which Katko, R-Camillus, used Democrats to argue that Balter was "too extreme" for central New York. In Balter's ad, one former Katko supporter says that the GOP congressman "has changed." Another adds, "He's totally Trump now."
The ad criticizes Katko's vote for the 2017 tax law, one of Trump's main legislative achievements. Balter's campaign says that vote helped corporate special interests — a reference to one of the law's main provisions, a permanent tax cut for corporations.
It repeats another criticism of the tax law — that it led to some Republican leaders, including Trump, suggesting that Medicare and Social Security would need to be cut to reduce the deficit.
Balter's campaign also mentions that Katko voted against a prescription drug price reform bill last year that would've allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices for Americans covered by private insurance. Katko has said he opposed the legislation because of its potential impact on the pharmaceutical industry's research and development efforts. He also called it a "highly partisan" bill.
Democrats have countered that Katko's campaign has been boosted by the pharmaceutical industry. He has received more than $160,000 in donations from individuals or political action committees connected to pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The ad closes with the former Katko supporters saying they voted for him in the past, but won't this year.
"Not this time," they said.
Balter has released six commercials during the general election campaign. In 2018, she aired nine TV ads, most of which were released after Labor Day.
The volume of TV ads in the 24th district is an indication of how competitive the race is this year. The candidates have released 11 commercials and outside groups paid for ads on digital platforms and television networks.
Polls show it's a tight race. A recent survey released by a pro-term limits group found Katko leading by three points. A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll showed Balter is ahead by three points.
Political forecasters rate the race either "lean Republican" or "tilt Republican," which gives a slight advantage to Katko. But the ratings are one step away from a "toss up" designation, which would signify that Balter and Katko are running even.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.