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Balter, Conole face off on Primary Day to see who will face Katko in November

Balter/Conole campaigns
Dana Balter, left, and Francis Conoloe face off in Tuesday's primary for the Democratic nomination in New York's 24th Congressional District

Tuesday’s primary features a race in central New York that will determine which Democrat faces three-term Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in the race for the 24th Congressional District. The winner will either be a familiar face, or a political newcomer.

Democrat Dana Balter came within five percentage points of handing Katko his first electoral loss two years ago, and she thinks she can do better than that the second time around, holding on too much of the progressive support she corralled in 2018, and more.

"I think the coalition we have built on this campaign really spans all parts of the party, which is important, because you need that not only to win but make change when you’re in office," Balter said. Balter won the endorsement of Oswego County Democrats.  The 24th district does include part of that county.

She doesn’t have the support of the Democratic committees in Onondaga or Cayuga counties, though. They backed political novice Francis Conole, an Iraq War veteran who has worked in the Pentagon.

"I have spent my career really facing tough challenges, really leading," Conole said. "Not only on the ground in the Persian Gulf, but at senior levels advising a cabinet level position on decisions that had real gravity."

The two agree on most issues, but where they split is on health care, with Balter saying she’d champion Medicare-for-all, which she said is resonating more with voters because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We’ve seen support for universal health care rise during this pandemic. Because this experience makes it abundantly clear; for me to be healthy, I need you to be healthy also. So I have a vested interest in making sure you have good care."

Conole takes a more moderate tone on the issue.

"My approach is to put more trust in central New Yorkers to decide if they want Medicare or include it as an option. My goal is to really fight for the needs of families and central New Yorkers here."

A poll commissioned by Balter shows her with a nearly 30-point edge in the primary race. It’s been a challenge for both candidates to make their case during the pandemic, relying on online meetings with potential voters. 

Elections officials expect a record turnout with many voters mailing in absentee ballots. Because of this, results of the race might not be known until at least after the July 4th holiday. There is early voting through Sunday, and polls then will open Tuesday at 6 a.m. Absentee ballots can still be sent in, as long as they're postmarked by Tuesday.