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4 Democrats vying for nomination in CNY’s 22nd congressional district

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO News (file photo)

The newly drawn 22nd congressional district includes Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida counties and a small portion of Oswego County. In recent years, the majority of that geographic area has been represented by Republican John Katko.

Now, four democrats are fighting to clinch the nomination and turn that seat blue in November.

The presumed front runner in the race is Iraq War veteran Francis Conole. Conole leads the field in fundraising and has racked up a number of endorsements, including from the Onondaga and Oneida County Democratic Committees.

Conole said he decided to run to fight for the rights of middle class and working families.

"I've spent my life trying to protect this country,” said Conole. “And now, I'm seeing chaos, extremism, attacks on our Capitol, voting rights under assault, a woman's fundamental right to make her own reproductive health decisions taken away."

Conole is hoping his experience at the federal level and in the military will help him stand out from his opponents.

"When I was at the Pentagon, I worked directly with the White House, with the State Department, with Congress, with our intelligence agencies, to focus on these strategic level tough challenges and cut through and really get things done,” said Conole.

Fellow veteran Sarah Klee Hood said she started thinking about running for Congress while speaking to voters in her current position as a DeWitt Town Councilor. She said she knows firsthand what it’s like to be concerned about “pocketbook issues.”

"I come from average middle class working parents,” said Klee Hood. “My entire family is union. I'm the first to earn a college degree. I served in the military. It was that sense of duty. I'm a mother raising two young daughters."

Klee Hood said single payer universal healthcare, affordable childcare, paid family medical leave, and access to higher education are priorities for her. She also said her job as the director of a clean technology incubator puts her in a unique position to protect the environment while boosting job creation.

"I come with a skillset that addresses climate change, the need for investing in our local economy through job development. That's an awesome bonus of my job," said Klee Hood.

Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok is one of the Lost Boys of South Sudan. He came to the United States in 2001 as a refugee and became a U.S. citizen.

Majok said public service has always been a priority for him.

"My father taught us that wherever you go, you make sure you take care of people,” said Majok. “So, when I came to America, I'm taking Syracuse and the 22nd district as a larger village."

Majok lists creating more affordable housing as one of his top priorities and thinks incentivizing home ownership could bring constituents stability in urban and rural parts of the district.

"Poverty is killing this community, and it's working people like myself that poverty is affecting," said Majok. "That's why I'm such a passionate person about housing because housing will help us fight poverty."

Sam Roberts is a former assemblyman and Onondaga County legislator. He also served as commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. He said his legislative experience should help him stand out in the race.

"I looked at the other folks who were running, and they're good people. I just wasn't impressed,” said Roberts. “I said (to myself), 'Well what are you going to do? You're going to sit back and complain and do nothing?' And I said, ‘No, I'm going to run.’”

Roberts said one of his biggest priorities is the economy. He is a General Motors retiree and has received endorsements from multiple labor unions.

"To have good jobs, we have to have strong business,” said Roberts. “We can't just turn our backs and just be pro-worker because the workers need an employer. So we have to work hand in hand together. And when I talk about jobs, I'm talking about good paying jobs with benefits.”

The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will face off against the winner of the GOP primary on Election Day. Republicans Steve Wells and Brandon Williams are running in that race.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.