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Elections

Katko, Balter in dead heat according to new poll

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U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia
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Democrat Dana Balter holds a slim lead over Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District with less than a month to go before Election Day, according to a new poll released by the Siena College Research Institute Sunday.

The poll, conducted by Siena and Syracuse.com, shows Balter with a 45-42% lead over Katko. The margin of error is plus/minus 5.1%, making the race a statistical dead heat.

Katko defeated Balter by about 5% in 2018. This year, Katko's popularity has taken a hit. The poll showed Katko with a negative 39-49% favorability rating. A Siena poll two years ago had Katko with a 48-39% favorability. The drop may be a result of Katko's endorsement of President Trump. Democrat Joe Biden leads Trump by 19 points among voters in the district, which covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western half of Oswego County. Balter also has a negative favorability rating in the poll, 36-46%.

"Balter’s favorability rating is about the same today as it was near the end of the last campaign," said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg. "Katko’s favorability rating, however, has fallen over the last two years, from nine points favorable in October 2018 to now ten points unfavorable."

One possible advantage for Balter is the increased support she's getting outside the city of Syracuse. The poll showed Balter leading Katko by 17 points in the city, but virtually tied through the rest of the district.

"Greater support for the Democrat at the top of the ticket this year appears to be having a beneficial impact for Balter’s campaign," said Greenberg. "While 0% of Balter voters are supporting Trump, 13% of Katko supporters say they’re voting for Biden. These are voters that Katko needs to hold onto and likely increase if he wants to win re-election. And it is a group that Balter likely needs to try and woo back to her side if she wants to hold or increase her narrow lead. This looks like it’s headed to another close election."

The poll also showed more than half of voters in the district plan to vote in person on Election Day, with only 14% of respondents saying they plan to vote by mail. The Onondaga County Board of Elections reported Saturday that nearly 45,000 absentee ballots have been mailed to voters, with nearly 10,000 already returned.