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Candidates running for 24th Congressional District spar on I-81, campaign finance

Ryan Delaney/WRVO and Katko for Congress
Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei (left) is running for the 24th Congressional District against Republican John Katko.

Republican John Katko and incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei largely stuck to the issues in their latest television debate Tuesday night. The two candidates took stands on the economy, Common Core and U.S. military action in Syria on the half-hour debate on CNY Central.

But on the issue of what to do about the aging span of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse, neither candidate had a definitive answer.

Katko said the options that have been presented are good ones, but he needs more information.

"So to have this discussion before you find out the costs involved, I think it's putting the cart before the horse to some extent," Katko said. "So, quite frankly, if I saw the costs and knew what the cost differences were, I'd be able to speak to you more intelligently about that."

Maffei said that the he thinks an updated I-81 could really remake downtown Syracuse, and that the federal government should pay for it.

"I don't know where John Katko has been," Maffei said. "I mean, I've been in a lot of these discussions, they do have cost estimates on almost all of these things. There are estimates that nobody knows for sure, but you can't wait to make a decision before you have all that data in. I'm looking for a consensus in the community."

And the issue of negative campaign commercials took center stage once again. On the day a new poll showed Maffei losing his lead in the race that has been most notable for its attack ads, the Democrat said the country's campaign finance system is wrong.

"They've spent $2.5 million against me already," Maffei said. "Mr. Katko always complains, but it's a pox on both your houses. It's bad for the system and I think we need to change that, so I support a constitutional amendment. I also support campaign finance reform that would give the power back to the people."

Katko agreed that change to the system in general is needed, but took what's been said in this particular campaign personally.

"I think it is stunning that Mr. Maffei is playing the victim here," Katko fired back. "He's outspent me three-to-one with campaign advertising, and he's done nothing except from day one have negative ads, and those negative ads have gotten increasingly nasty in tenor and tone. And have gotten increasingly personal, going to the extent of questioning my integrity as a prosecutor."

There will be three more debates between the two candidates for the 24th Congressional District, that includes Onondaga, Wayne and Cayuga Counties, and part of Oswego County. A poll released Tuesday by Siena College/Syracuse.com found Katko with a 10 point lead over Maffei.