One national publication considers the 24th Congressional District race to be a toss up — confirmation that it's a tight race between Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko and Democratic challenger Dana Balter.
In its latest election forecast, Politico moved the 24th district from "lean Republican" to "toss up."
"GOP Rep. John Katko, who won by 5 points in 2018, is a survivor, winning a district that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the past two elections," Politico wrote. "But his 2018 rematch with Democrat Dana Balter is expected to be closer this year."
Since Balter won the Democratic primary in June, most polls show it's a close race. Two polls, released by Democratic pollsters, show Balter leading by two or three points. Other polls have shown it's either tied or Katko has a small lead.
One poll released by Katko's campaign found he has an 11-point lead, but that could be an outlier. A Balter campaign poll released around the same time showed the Democratic candidate ahead by two points.
Katko was an early target for Democrats in the 2020 election cycle. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified the 24th district as a target and added Katko to its "retirement watch list." The GOP congressman launched his reelection campaign in July 2019.
On the Democratic side, Balter was one of three candidates — Francis Conole and Roger Misso were the others — who sought the party's nomination. Misso bowed out three months before the primary election. Balter defeated Conole by 26 percentage points to win the primary election.
After Balter's win, Democrats released a pair of polls that showed Balter either leading or running even with Katko. Not long after the primary election, political forecasters shifted their 24th Congressional District race ratings. Cook Political Report moved the race from "likely Republican" to lean Republican. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball also changed its rating to lean Republican.
One forecaster, Inside Elections, updated the rating in the Democrats' favor twice. The rating initially moved to lean Republican. Later, it shifted to tilt Republican — one step away from becoming a toss up.
Two publications, Roll Call and the Washington Post, consider Katko as one of the most vulnerable House Republican members.
The race is generating interest from outside groups. The DCCC and National Republican Congressional Committee have already invested in multiple television commercials. Democratic and GOP-aligned organizations have been paying for ads in the district.
That doesn't include the ads paid for by the candidates. Between Balter and Katko, the campaigns have released 15 television commercials — most of which were unveiled over the summer. The high volume of TV ads is an indication that a lot of money is being invested in the 24th district race.
The race could be affected by the addition of a third candidate to the ballot. Steve Williams, a Democrat and Syracuse attorney, has been restored as the Working Families Party candidate in the district. Williams was considered a placeholder for the ballot line and the plan was for Balter to replace him as the Working Families' candidate.
However, a judge ruled last week that the Working Families Party didn't have a quorum for a judicial nominating convention at which Williams was tapped to appear on the ballot for a state Supreme Court judge seat in Queens. That would've freed up the Working Families line in the 24th district and allowed Balter to replace Williams on the ballot line.
But the judge's ruling, barring a successful appeal, will mean that Williams won't be a judicial candidate and instead will appear on the ballot in the 24th district. While Williams could take votes away from Balter, the election could be similar to the congressional race eight years ago.
In 2012, Democratic candidate Dan Maffei challenged incumbent Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. There was a third candidate that year — Ursula Rozum, the Green Party's nominee. Rozum received 7% of the vote, but Maffei won the election.
Absentee ballots will be distributed soon in the 24th district. Early voting begins Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 1. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.