I'm reluctant to spend too much time writing about the New York State congressional races because the state legislature is still working on the district maps. But since the Central New York district centered around Syracuse just lost their incumbent, Republican John Katko, I thought I'd take a preliminary look without taking the myriad gerrymandering into account. So this is what one of the best shots at a red-to-blue flip NY-24) looks like right now.
First, keep in the back of your mind that Katko has been a mainstream conservative, not a fascist. He has far more in common with Blue Dog Democrats than with most of the inmates in the GOP psycho-ward filled with the likes of Marjorie Traitor Greene, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, etc. He even tried-- mostly unsuccessfully, to work across the aisle from time to time. He voted to certify the 2020 election and voted to impeach Señor Trumpanzee, which is why he was forced into retiring. After those votes, and voting for a smattering of bipartisan Biden legislation, like the ProAct and the Equality Act, Katko lost support of all four county Conservative parties in the district. Despite his attempts to mend fences with the far right, his support from the local Republican base continued to erode. He announced his retirement on January 14, looking at the likelihood of a bitter and deadly primary and then an even bluer district, possibly with the addition of progressive hotbed Ithaca or possibly Rome and Utica.
Even before Katko backed out 2 conservative Democrats jumped into the primary against the only progressive running, Blue America-endorsed Steven Holden, already building a following by then. And before Katko bowed out, 3 far right Republicans were already running for the seat-- all smearing Katko regularly-- as well.
Here's a rundown of all the conservatives running against Holden, first in the primary and then we'll look at the Republicans beating each other up to prove who's the Trumpiest of them all.
Francis Conole is a Navy Reserve captain and the Syracuse Chair of the Onondaga County Democratic Party. He lost in the 2020 Democratic Primary by almost 35 points and is making his case based on just two personal points: he can raise money and he's from Syracuse. Just like 2020, he has raised almost half a million dollars, mostly from his wealthy family and from typical Democratic Establishment sources, like Pelosi's House Majority PAC. He's hired a large campaign staff (as though he were running a 1970s-style campaign), just what he did in 2020 when progressive Dana Balter beat him handily. Conole has a low trust rating among many Democrats since he worked for the Trump administration as a senior analyst for James Mattis. If elected, he would be anothetr Establishment empty suit and party hack who will do the bidding of his corporate backers. Policywise, he opposes single-payer healthcare, supports increasing police funding and opposes cutting the Defense Department budget.
Sarah Klee Hood is the newly-elected police commissioner in DeWitt, an eastern suburb of Syracuse. An AIr Force veteran, she's a mother of two young children and and is making a name for herself as a candidate who is both tone deaf and plastic. Locals are grumbling that she hasn't been talking part in most community campaign events and even her own supporters in DeWitt believe she's a careerist and opportunist who used her recent election to further her own ambitions. In a recent candidate forum, she touted how she was "uniquely positioned in the race because she was a veteran," kind of crazy when you consider that Holden, Conole and Republican Andrew McCarthy are all veterans as well. She doesn't seem to pay attention. She's always babbling about "Central NY values," which as he has been unable to explain or define. Another conservative Dem like Conole, she opposes single-payer healthcare, wants increased police funding, and says, cryptically that she "will refuse to take away people’s liberty," GOP-talk for opposing vaccine mandates as far as I can tell. People I've talked to in the district all bring up that she's potentially another Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema.
Akol Majok is the latest conservative entrant into the race, a member of the Syracuse Common Council and a South Sudanese refugee. He has a compelling personal story, but he's less like Ilhan Omar and more like Joe Manchin politically. Although he's kind of squirrelly about where he stands on social issues, he has announced he supports increased police funding and opposes Medicare for All. He does seem to be a cultural conservative who is likely to migrate to the GOP eventually.
John Murtari, AKA "Citizen John," is a wacko right-wing conspiracy nut, out their on the fringes. He had an open feud with Katko, has a criminal record and hasn't gained much traction with Republicans and none at all among normal people/.
Like Hood, Tim Ko is from DeWitt and is the favorite among the Trumpists, including Long Island congressman and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin. Trump’s supporters and the county Conservative parties are impressed with him, and he has their backing. He's a stereotypical Trumper-- anti-Choice, pro-gun and pro-Trump. He's a physician's assistant who supports neither vaccine nor mask mandates. What is ironic is that he campaigns with a pin that is the "Staff of Caduceus," which symbolizes those in the medical field, even though he's a science sceptic.
Andrew McCarthy is a political opportunist, plain and simple who doesn't live in the district. He's also a Steve Bannon devotee who toes the MAGA line on every single thing.
All those GOP candidates have complete fealty to Trump, but they also have a reverence from New Yorks most monstrous and extreme Member of Congress, Claudia Tenney. As of right now, Tenney represents NY-22, and she has a target on her back among legislators who are likely to try to defeat her by throwing her into a bluer seat-- possibly the redrawn Syracuse-centric district we've been talking about. All Republican candidates have vowed that if Tenney runs in the district, they'd drop out and support her.
Now remember, Tenney is New York's version of Marjorie Traitor Greene and Lauren Boebert, only she's been at it before either of them thought they could express their extremism in Congress. She is known for several far-right policies, but she is the most known for her distaste of the Native American community. She called the National Representative of the Oneida Nation, Ray Halbritter, "spray tan" and says that non-tribal businesses should be able to compete directly with tribal businesses (particularly casinos), and that non-tribal agencies should get involved in tribal business, such as with child welfare. She also heckled NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell when changing the name of the Washington Football Team. Her outbursts are documented here. The thought of her being in the race energizes Native Americans, both locally and across the country.
All these candidates running against Steve Holden pose a threat to progressive values and the democratic process. Please consider contributing to Holden's campaign here.