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Conole and Williams fight for 22nd Congressional seat

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Conole/Williams campaigns
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Democrat Francis Conole, left, and Republican Brandon Williams will face off in November for the newly redrawn 22nd Congressional District seat

The race for New York’s 22nd congressional district seat includes two candidates who have never held office before.

Congressional candidate Francis Conole said he has been on the campaign trail nonstop for more than a year, speaking to voters in the 22nd district. He said people have had it with divisiveness.

The Democratic Iraq War Veteran said he worked at the Pentagon during the Obama and Trump administrations and is painting himself as a candidate who can work across the aisle to get things done.

"Central New York voters are concerned about the extremes,” Conole said. “I think that we've seen over the past few years, certainly during the Trump administration, a lot of chaos, a lot of division, and I think Central New Yorkers are so tired of that."

Conole said many voters are also worried about abortion rights. He is firmly pro-choice, saying this year’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade puts women’s lives at risk.

"I don't know how we can be a free country when the government does not allow a woman to make her own decisions about her own reproductive health,” he said.

Conole said his opponent, Republican Brandon Williams, has an “extreme” position on abortion.

We reached out to the Williams campaign multiple times by phone and email for an interview for this piece, and those requests went unanswered.

But in a recent debate, hosted by Syracuse.com and Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Williams said he wanted to set the record straight on his abortion stance.

"On abortion, I am pro-life, and I will protect the exceptions for abortion on rape, incest, and the life of the mother, and I've said that consistently throughout the entire campaign," said Williams.

Williams said he will not support a federal ban on abortion, and the decision should be left up to the states.

On the economy, Williams said his experience in the private sector should set him apart. The tech executive from Texas moved to the Cayuga County Town of Sennett in 2010 to run a farm. He said bloated government spending needs to be reined in.

"We're headlong into record high inflation which makes it harder on anybody on a fixed income through no fault of their own,” he said. “The earning and spending power of paycheck to paycheck folks, as well as fixed income people, keeps eroding."

Conole said his plan for the economy includes implementing middle class tax cuts, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and working to achieve energy independence.

"I think that in the near term, as we navigate this issue of rising costs and rising energy costs, we do need to continue to increase production here at home as a bridge to our greater investment and our greater goal which is continuing to invest in clean energy sources," Conole said.

And while the Jan. 6 Committee continues its investigation on the attack on the Capitol, a number of Republican nominees on the ballot this year nationwide have denied or questioned the outcome of the 2020 election. Williams said he does accept Joe Biden won the election, and he does not support the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Conole calls the challenges to the election damaging to the country.

"To have a former president call into question an election, I think it weakens our, really weakens our faith, Americans' faith, in our democracy, and this experiment we have here in representative democracy is fragile,” said Conole.

The newly drawn 22nd congressional district includes Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida counties and a small portion of Oswego County.

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.