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Maffei, Katko participate in first of several televised debates

Sarah Jean Condon
The Citizen
Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei (left) is running for the 24th Congressional District against Republican John Katko.

The first of a series of televised debates in the race for the 24th Congressional District kicked off last night. Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei and Republican challenger John Katko sparred in the studios of Time Warner Cable News.

In a sweeping debate of issues ranging from the minimum wage to northern border security, Maffei and Katko outlined their differences in their race for Congress. Beyond their stands on the issues, the candidates blasted the bickering partisan tone in Washington. Maffei suggested Katko would be beholden to Republican leadership on issues like immigration reform.

"Unfortunately my opponent doesn’t support that bipartisan bill," Maffei said. "That’s the kind of problem in Washington. We can’t get anything done because even when something is bipartisan, it’s not a perfect bill, but at least it’s bipartisan. We can’t get agreement from the hard line Republicans who just don’t want immigration.”

Katko countered Maffei's attack.

“That’s twice now you’ve brought up partisan issues," Katko said. "That’s why nothing is getting done. That’s why I ran for office. It’s comments like yours, and pointing fingers like yours. I want to work with Democrats. I want to work with independents. I want to work with Conservatives. I want to work with everybody."

A theme that’s emerged in all of the campaigns involving Maffei, that he’s more connected to Washington D.C. than central New York, also came up again last night in the context of his daughter’s birth at a Washington-area hospital, and the purchase of a townhouse in D.C., where his wife works.

“To use those things, my wife’s employment choices and my daughter’s health care, I think that should be out of bounds," Maffei explained. "And if it’s not out of bounds, then maybe politics is as broken as everybody says.”

Katko suggested the Maffei-Washington connection goes beyond the congressman’s personal life.

“Eighty-two percent of your money has come from Washington D.C.," Katko said. "Over 80 percent of my donors come from Syracuse and central New York. You are where you get your money from Mr. Maffei, and you are Washington.”
This is the first of several televised debates this week and next in a race that’s expected to be close,  with Election Day looming one week from today. The 24th includes all or parts of Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego Counties.

Meanwhile, a new poll out today shows Katko has surged to a 10 point lead over Maffei. The poll, released by Siena College and the Syracuse Post-Standard, shows Katko leading Maffei 52 to 42 percent, with six percent still undecided.

A Siena College poll released five weeks ago showed Maffei with an eight point lead over Katko. According to the poll, independent voters have surged toward Katko, with 58 percent supporting the Republican over Maffei.