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New York’s 22nd district a race to watch on primary day

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO News File Photo

The 22nd congressional district may shape up to be a pivotal primary for the future of the seat, but a rare August primary is raising concerns that only a small number of people may get out to vote.

Grant Reeher, Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, said in some ways, that strikes him as strange.

"Politics right now in the last six or seven years has been just super contentious, and I think getting a lot of attention,” said Reeher. “Particularly the midterms."

But he said the state’s redistricting woes put voters and candidates in a tough position this year, with some candidates switching which districts they hope to represent as late as May.

Still, the newly drawn 22nd district is widely seen as a race to watch and a chance for Democrats to possibly flip the seat and clinch a victory.

Reeher said Steve Wells appears to be the front runner on the GOP side, with his campaign working to position him as the heir apparent to incumbent John Katko (R-Camillus).

His opponent, Brandon Williams, has been appealing to the party’s conservative base and has been vocal about his support of former President Donald Trump. Wells has turned down many opportunities to be interviewed or participate in debates.

“(Wells) doesn't want to alienate Trump supporters, but his way of doing this is to avoid talking to the media and getting pinned down on anything,” said Reeher. “So, he's trying to have it both ways."

Four Democrats are running in the primary: Iraq War veteran Francis Conole, DeWitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood, Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok, and former Assemblyman Sam Roberts.

Reeher said all four candidates have their strengths, but Conole leads the field in fundraising, which could lead him to victory.

"His strategy is he's been able to put ads on TV. He's been able to do a lot of mailings. He's had fairly substantial spending by third parties on his behalf,” said Reeher.

But Reeher said this year especially, it’s hard to predict exactly what the results will be.

"Given that the turnout could be particularly low, and given that there might be some enthusiasm coming from different quarters from the other candidates, it's possible we might see some surprises, too."

Results of the primaries will be available below after polls close at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.