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Conole wins Onondaga County designation from Onondaga County Dems, Balter to challenge in a primary

Francis Conole, center, won the party designation from Onondaga County Democrats in his race to challenge Rep. John Katko. Dana Balter, right, will challenge Conole in a June primary. Roger Misso, left, will announce his plans this week

For the third time in the last three elections, a primary will determine which Democrat faces Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in the race for central New York’s 24th District seat in November.

The players in a June primary start with Dana Balter, whose primary win two years ago vaulted her to within five percentage points of beating Katko in November 2018. But this time around, Balter won’t have the Onondaga County Democratic Party designation to help her. It’s the biggest one in the four-county district, and Democrats this weekend voted to endorse political newcomer Francis Conole.

In a statement to WRVO, Balter said she believes she can recreate support in Onondaga County from 2018, and win the seat.

"I am running for Congress because I believe every central and western New Yorker deserves a fair shot at success. In Congress, I will fight for affordable healthcare, good jobs with fair wages, and getting big money out of politics," said Balter in a statement. "That message resonates, which is why I won Onondaga County in 2018. I look forward to earning the support of voters again in June and November so we can win the seat and finally give the 24th district the representation we deserve."

Conole though believes he has the message that can beat Katko. And he is emphasizing party unity.

"Right now we really need to come together both as a party and as a country and that’s something I’m going to work hard to do to bring us together," said Conole.

Conole also has the designation from Cayuga County which brings him the lion’s share of the party machines and money in the district. 

"Having the designation is an affirmation and support from the party and gives us a certain resources and infrastructure and support that we’re going to need going forward," he said.

Onondaga County Democratic Party chair Pam Hunter believes Conole, an Iraq War Veteran, has the right message, operation, and broad coalition to beat Katko in November, adding that beating a three-term Republican in a district that tilts democratic has to remain the priority.

"Regardless what happens in a primary, we have to make sure that people remain energized, to make sure they remain committed to democracy, and voting for our candidate come November."

A third candidate, Roger Misso, will announce later this week whether he will continue his candidacy into the June 23 primary.

Correction: An earlier version of this story showed Conole spelled as "Canole." We apologize for the error.