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Coverage of central and northern New York's congressional races, including the primary races and the general election.Races covered include the 24th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who is running for reelection; the 22nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), who is retiring; and the 21st Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro).

Katko says he's been consistent on criticism of Trump

Ellen Abbott
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus)

The discord over the presidential election continues to filter down into a race for Congress in central New York. The question of whether freshman Republican Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) would support Donald Trump continues to dog the campaign for the 24th Congressional District.

The questions started coming this spring: would Katko, trying to win re-election in a district rated as a toss-up, support Trump, a controversial nominee.

From the start Katko was wary, saying he wouldn’t publicly support Trump because of the divisive tone of the Trump candidacy. But he never said he wouldn’t vote for Trump, something Democratic challenger Colleen Deacon pounced on. After the the release of a video tape from 2005 in which Trump uses sexually aggressive language forced several elected

Republicans to denounce the GOP presidential candidate, Deacon doubled down on her criticism.

“If you’re going to wait until after you’ve seen a whole number of Republican members of Congress, running for Congress, decide to denounce him, then it’s okay for you to denounce him, that just shows that it’s cowardly,” said Deacon on Sunday.

That’s the soundbite that has gotten under Katko’s skin. He says he’s no coward, staring down violent criminals for much of his career as a federal prosecutor in Syracuse and Texas.

"I’ve had several death threats on a regular basis. I don’t back down. So calling me a coward is really pretty outrageous," Katko told reporters Tuesday.

Katko wants Deacon to withdraw that statement. Her answer to that is to say that "waiting until someone brags about sexual assault to denounce them is cowardly,” said Deacon.

Katko contends his stand on Trump has been consistent from the start.

"I’ve never endorsed him, I’ve never said I was going to vote for him. So, that’s all nonsense. It’s revisionist history, and quite frankly, I think it smacks of desperation on her part,” said Katko.

Katko is leading Deacon by 19 points in the latest Siena College/Time Warner Cable News poll. The 24th District includes all or parts of Onondaga,Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego Counties.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.